Federal Defenders of New York, Inc. v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 032020 FED2, 19-1778

Docket Nº:19-1778
Party Name:Federal Defenders of New York, Inc., on behalf of itself and its clients detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center-Brooklyn, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, Warden Herman Quay, in his official capacity, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Jenna M. Dabbs (Sean Hecker, Joshua Matz, Matthew J. Craig, Benjamin D. White, on the brief), Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Sean P. Greene (Varuni Nelson, Rachel G. Balaban, Seth D. Eichenholtz, on the brief), for Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for ...
Judge Panel:Before: Walker, Parker, and Carney, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:March 20, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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Federal Defenders of New York, Inc., on behalf of itself and its clients detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center-Brooklyn, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Federal Bureau of Prisons, Warden Herman Quay, in his official capacity, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 19-1778

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

March 20, 2020

Argued: February 11, 2020

Plaintiff-Appellant the Federal Defenders of New York, Inc. (the "Federal Defenders" or "Defenders") appeals from a June 4, 2019 judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Brodie, J.), dismissing the organization's complaint against Defendants-Appellees the Federal Bureau of Prisons (the "BOP") and Warden Herman Quay ("Warden Quay") (together, "Defendants"). The Federal Defenders allege that Defendants' curtailment of inmate-attorney visits at the Metropolitan Detention Center-Brooklyn (the "MDC") in early 2019 violated the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), and the constitutional right to counsel established by the Sixth Amendment. We conclude that the District Court erred in dismissing the Federal Defenders' APA claim by failing to consider applicable BOP regulations in its zone-of-interests analysis. In its ruling, the District Court also misconstrued the Defenders' Sixth Amendment claim: whereas the Federal Defenders invoke the court's traditional equitable powers in their Sixth Amendment claim against Defendants, the District Court treated this claim as purporting to arise under the Constitution itself. Because the equitable basis of the Federal Defenders' Sixth Amendment claim raises novel questions of constitutional law, we think it prudent to defer ruling on its merits. We therefore vacate the District Court's judgment and remand the cause for further proceedings. In particular, we direct the District Court on remand to consider appointing a master to mediate the parties' differences at the earliest possible time to ensure that the Federal Defenders have meaningful, continuous access to their clients either in person or by remote access pending adjudication of these claims, as these claims may be amended to address similar issues of access arising during the current public health emergency.

Vacated and Remanded. The mandate shall issue Forthwith.

Jenna M. Dabbs (Sean Hecker, Joshua Matz, Matthew J. Craig, Benjamin D. White, on the brief), Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Sean P. Greene (Varuni Nelson, Rachel G. Balaban, Seth D. Eichenholtz, on the brief), for Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New Yo r k, Brooklyn, NY, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: Walker, Parker, and Carney, Circuit Judges.

This appeal concerns the severe curtailment of defense attorneys' access to client inmates held at the Metropolitan Detention Center-Brooklyn ("MDC"), most of whom are pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of a crime.

In February 2019, the Federal Defenders of New York, Inc. (the "Federal Defenders" or "Defenders") sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons (the "BOP") and Warden Herman Quay ("Warden Quay") (together, "Defendants"), alleging that their cancellation of inmate-attorney visits at the MDC violates the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), and the right to counsel established by the Sixth Amendment. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Brodie, J.), dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The District Court held that the Federal Defenders' APA claim did not satisfy the zone-of-interests test and it concluded that the Defenders did not have a cause of action under the Sixth Amendment because the constitutional right to counsel is personal to the accused.

For the reasons set forth below, we VACATE the District Court's judgment. The District Court erred in dismissing the Defenders' APA claim by failing to consider relevant BOP regulations in its zone-of-interests analysis. It also misunderstood the basis of their Sixth Amendment claim: whereas the Federal Defenders bring this claim under the federal courts' inherent equitable powers, the District Court treated the claim as purporting to arise directly under the Sixth Amendment. Because the equitable nature of the claim raises important questions of constitutional law not fully explored by the District Court, we remand the cause for further proceedings on the APA claim and, if necessary, for reconsideration of the Sixth Amendment claim.

BACKGROUND

The MDC is the principal federal pretrial detention facility in the Eastern District of New York. It houses more than 1, 600 inmates in two buildings located in Brooklyn. The BOP, which administers the nation's federal jail and prison system, oversees and directs operations at the MDC, with Warden Quay superintending the facility during the period relevant to this appeal.

Regulations issued by the BOP govern inmate-attorney visits at the MDC.1 Under these rules, the Warden is responsible for "set[ting] the time and place" for attorney visitation. 28 C.F.R. § 543.13(b). In doing so, he must "provide the opportunity for pretrial inmate-attorney visits on a seven-days-a-week basis," id. at § 551.117(a), and he must "make every effort to arrange for a visit when prior notification is not practical," id. at § 543.13(c). In addition, the Warden generally may not restrict the frequency of attorney visits or require these visits to take place outside of normal visitation hours, although he "may make exceptions according to local conditions or for an emergency situation demonstrated by the inmate or visiting attorney." Id. at § 543.13(b).

The "standard practice" at the MDC is to allow attorneys to visit detainees from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days per week.2 Joint App'x ("JA") 11. The Federal Defenders-a not-for-profit organization that "is dedicated to offering public defense services to indigent persons in federal criminal cases brought in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York"-rely on this schedule to visit their clients at the MDC. JA 10.

In January 2019, however, a series of events resulted in a severe curtailment of the Federal Defenders' access to MDC inmates. First, the BOP cancelled or substantially delayed attorney visitation at the MDC during seven days in January, citing staffing issues related to a partial shutdown of the federal government that resulted from a budgetary dispute. Shortly after the government shutdown ended on January 25 and attorney visiting resumed, the BOP again cancelled all inmate-attorney visits at the MDC, effective from January 28 through February 2, this time in response to a fire that started in the MDC's switch gear room on January 27 and caused power outages throughout the facility. Inmate-attorney visits resumed again, temporarily, on February 3, but were then abruptly halted after less than four hours, apparently because of a confrontation between BOP officials and individuals who had assembled in the MDC's lobby.

The Federal Defenders spent "significant time, focus, and resources" in responding to these disruptions in the MDC's schedule for attorney visits. JA 16. During the January government shutdown, for example, the Federal Defenders complained in a contemporaneous letter to BOP officials that the "[l]ast-minute scheduling changes and unexpected closings impose[d] significant burdens on the Defenders and other defense lawyers, particularly those who ha[d] to travel long distances to meet with clients at these facilities, need[ed] to arrange for interpreters or other experts to attend meetings with their clients, or ha[d] a time-sensitive matter to discuss." JA 47.[3] Later, in the wake of the January 27 fire, the Federal Defenders dedicated resources to contacting their clients in the MDC and gathering information about their clients' welfare. After hearing reports that the power outages had deprived many detainees of heating, electricity, hot water, phones, medical care, and other basic services, the Defenders repeatedly requested information from BOP officials on the conditions at the MDC and sought to know the reasons that the facility cancelled visitation. When the BOP "[s]tonewall[ed]" their requests, the Federal Defenders turned to the courts, seeking and securing an administrative order from the District Court (Irizarry, then C.J.) that required the BOP to allow the Federal Defenders to inspect the MDC facilities and to speak directly with the inmates. JA 13-14.

In addition to draining the Federal Defenders' resources, the BOP's cancellations and delays of attorney visits impaired the Defenders' ability to represent their clients. During these periods of curtailment, the Federal Defenders could not review discovery files with clients. Nor could they counsel MDC inmates on pleading decisions, trial...

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