United States v. Sanchez-Gomez

Decision Date31 May 2017
Docket Number No. 13-50562,No. 13-50561, No. 13-50566, No. 13-50571,13-50561
Citation859 F.3d 649
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Rene SANCHEZ-GOMEZ, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Moises Patricio-Guzman, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Jasmin Isabel Morales, AKA Jasmin Morales, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Mark William Ring, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Reuben Camper Cahn (argued), Shereen J. Charlick, and Ellis M. Johnston III, Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc., San Diego, California, for Defendants-Appellants.

Daniel E. Zipp (argued) and Kyle Hoffman, Assistant United States Attorneys; Bruce R. Castetter, Chief, Appellate Section, Criminal Division; United States Attorney's Office, San Diego, California; for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: Sidney R. Thomas, Chief Judge, and Mary M. Schroeder, Stephen Reinhardt, Alex Kozinski, Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Barry G. Silverman, Susan P. Graber, Richard A. Paez, Marsha S. Berzon, Consuelo M. Callahan and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges.

Dissent by Judge Ikuta

KOZINSKI, Circuit Judge:

We consider whether a district court's policy of routinely shackling all pretrial detainees in the courtroom is constitutional.


In 2013, the judges of the Southern District of California acceded to the U.S. Marshals Service's request for "a district-wide policy of allowing the Marshals Service to produce all in-custody defendants in full restraints for most non-jury proceedings." "Full restraints" means that a defendant's hands are closely handcuffed together, these handcuffs are connected by chain to another chain running around the defendant's waist, and the defendant's feet are shackled and chained together.

After seeking input from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Federal Defenders of San Diego and a Criminal Justice Act panel representative, the judges adopted the policy1 of deferring to the Marshals' shackling decisions, with a few minor exceptions. The judges retained discretion to "direct the Marshals to produce an in-custody defendant without restraints." And the district judges, but not the magistrates, directed the Marshals to "remove arm and hand restraints during guilty pleas and sentencing hearings before them unless the Marshals [were] aware of information that the particular defendant need[ed] to be fully restrained." Additionally, "defendants in individual cases may ask the judge to direct that the restraints be removed in whole or in part," at which point the judge would "weigh all appropriate factors, including all of the concerns" expressed by the Marshals in justifying the routine use of full restraints. Only one district judge, Judge Marilyn Huff, opted out of the policy altogether. For the rest of the Southern District's judges, the Marshals shackled all in-custody defendants at pretrial proceedings.

Starting on the first day of the policy's implementation, the Federal Defenders of San Diego objected to the routine use of shackles and requested that each defendant's shackles be removed. The judges routinely denied the requests, relying on the Marshals Service's general security concerns as well as concerns particular to the Southern District. They pointed to increasing security threats from what they viewed as changing demographics and increasing case loads in their district.2 After ruling on a few individual objections, the judges indicated that they didn't "want to go through it a bunch of times." "For the record," one judge helpfully noted, "every defendant that has come out is in th[e] exact same shackling; so [counsel doesn't] have to repeat that every time."

The shackling was the same regardless of a defendant's individual characteristics. One defendant had a fractured wrist but appeared in court wearing full restraints. The judge denied her motion "for all of the reasons previously stated." Another defendant was vision-impaired. One of his hands was free of restraint so he could use his cane, but his other hand was shackled and secured to a chain around his waist and his legs were shackled together. His objection was "denied for all the reasons previously stated." And another defendant was shackled despite being brought into court in a wheelchair due to her "dire and deteriorating" health. The court "noted" her objection to the shackles and "appreciate[d] [counsel] not taking anymore time" with it.

The four defendants here, Rene Sanchez-Gomez, Moises Patricio-Guzman, Jasmin Isabel Morales and Mark Ring, all appeared in shackles and objected to their use. The magistrate judges overruled the objections in each instance. Defendants appealed these denials to the district court and also filed "emergency motions" challenging the constitutionality of the district-wide policy. The district courts denied all relief. All four cases are now consolidated before us.3

A. Appellate Jurisdiction

1. In United States v. Howard , we considered shackling claims similar to the ones raised here. 480 F.3d 1005, 1008 (9th Cir. 2007). The Central District of California had adopted a routine shackling policy in consultation with the U.S. Marshals Service. Id. The policy required defendants to be shackled in leg restraints at their initial appearances. Id. The public defenders objected, claiming that the use of leg restraints on individual defendants violated the defendants' liberty interests under the Fifth Amendment. Id. at 1009, 1013. They appealed the district court's denial of the unshackling motions without waiting for the defendants' criminal cases to conclude. Id.

We held that we had jurisdiction to review the district's shackling decisions as immediately appealable collateral orders. Id. at 1011. Such orders "(1) conclusively determine[ ] the disputed question, (2) resolve[ ] an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action, and (3) [are] effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment." Sell v. United States , 539 U.S. 166, 176, 123 S.Ct. 2174, 156 L.Ed.2d 197 (2003) (internal quotation marks, brackets and citation omitted). The government urges us to reconsider Howard , arguing that shackling decisions don't satisfy the requirements for immediately appealable collateral orders.

Presented for our review in this appeal are individual shackling decisions as well as district-wide challenges to the shackling policy. The main dispute in this case, however, is the district-wide shackling policy. Because we do not review the individual defendants' shackling decisions, we see no reason to revisit Howard 's appellate jurisdiction analysis as it applies to those appeals.

The district-wide challenges introduce a wrinkle in this case that Howard didn't address. Defendants challenge the Southern District's policy of routinely shackling in-custody defendants without an individualized determination that they pose a material risk of flight or violence. Defendants seek relief not merely for themselves, but for all in-custody defendants in the district. Thus, defendants are making class-like claims and asking for class-like relief.

Such claims are sometimes brought as civil class actions.4 See, e.g. , De Abadia-Peixoto v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec. , 277 F.R.D. 572, 574 (N.D. Cal. 2011) (using a civil class action to challenge an Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy of shackling all detainees in San Francisco's immigration court). But we can also construe such claims as petitions for writs of mandamus when we lack appellate jurisdiction and mandamus relief is otherwise appropriate. See Miller v. Gammie , 335 F.3d 889, 895 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc). We "treat the notice of appeal as a petition for a writ of mandamus and consider the issues under the factors set forth in Bauman ." Id. (citation omitted).

2. "The common-law writ of mandamus against a lower court is codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a) : ‘The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.’ " Cheney v. U.S. Dist. Court for the Dist. of Columbia , 542 U.S. 367, 380, 124 S.Ct. 2576, 159 L.Ed.2d 459 (2004). "Historically, a writ of mandamus was an order compelling a court or officer to act." In re United States , 791 F.3d 945, 953 (9th Cir. 2015).

Another use of the writ is to exercise our "supervisory" or "advisory" authority. Supervisory and advisory writs are appropriate in cases "involving questions of law of major importance to the administration of the district courts." In re Cement Antitrust Litig. (MDL No. 296) , 688 F.2d 1297, 1307 (9th Cir. 1982) ; see also La Buy v. Howes Leather Co. , 352 U.S. 249, 259–60, 77 S.Ct. 309, 1 L.Ed.2d 290 (1957) ("We believe that supervisory control of the District Courts by the Courts of Appeals is necessary to proper judicial administration in the federal system."). This authority allows courts to provide broader relief than merely ordering that the respondent act or refrain from acting, which promotes the writ's "vital corrective and didactic function." Will v. United States , 389 U.S. 90, 107, 88 S.Ct. 269, 19 L.Ed.2d 305 (1967) ; see also 16 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure §§ 3934, 3934.1 (3d ed. 2016) (describing the history and modern usage of this authority).

The Supreme Court has announced three conditions for issuing the writ: First, to ensure that the writ doesn't replace the regular appeals process, there must be "no other adequate means to attain the relief"; second, the petitioner must have a "clear and indisputable" right to the writ; and, lastly, the court, in its discretion, must be "satisfied that the writ is appropriate under the circumstances." Cheney , 542 U.S. at 380–81, 124 S.Ct. 2576 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). These...

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  • United States v. Sanchez-Gomez
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • 14 Mayo 2018
    ...by chain to another chain running around the defendant's waist, and the defendant's feet are shackled and chained together." 859 F.3d 649, 653 (C.A.9 2017) (en banc). In support of his proposal, the Marshal cited safety concerns arising from understaffing, past incidents of violence, and th......
  • Torres v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec.
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    • U.S. District Court — Central District of California
    • 24 Octubre 2019
    ...government policy." See United States v. Howard, 480 F.3d 1005, 1010 (9th Cir. 2007), overruled on other grounds, United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, 859 F.3d 649 (9th Cir. 2017). In particular, this mootness exception "applies to ongoing policies affecting pretrial detainees, because pretrial ......
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    ...notice of appeal as a petition for mandamus and reached the merits of the defendants’ due-process claim. United States v. Sanchez-Gomez , 859 F.3d 649, 657 (9th Cir. 2017) (en banc). Although the underlying criminal proceedings were long since over, the en banc court declined to dismiss the......
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