Thursday, August 27, 2015

United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, No. 13-50561 (8-25-15)(Schroeder with Nguyen and Zouhary).  Unshackle the defendants!  The 9th held that the US Marshals cannot use "economic strain" on its staff as justification for a blanket policy of full restraint for defendants who appear in court.  The court in Cal Southern has deferred to the recommendation by the Marshals that pretrial detainees be in full restraints (five point) for every court appearance in a nonjury context: initial, hearings, and so forth. 

Deck v. Missouri, 544 US 622 (2005) forbids shackles or fetters before a jury in a guilt phase.  The principles underlying this policy include the presumption of innocence, the right to counsel (fetters may hinder), and the need for a dignified judicial proceeding.  The 9th noted that this concerns jury proceedings, and it does not forbid fetters in a nonjury proceeding; however, this does not mean that such shackles may always be used without any justification or showing of necessity.  Such a policy must be justified.

The Marshals in Cal Southern justified the five point restraints on a couple of security incidents, the volume, and the stresses and strains on the US Marshals staff.  The policy approved in a prior case, United States v. Howard, 480 F.3d 1005 (9th Cir 2007) differed from here:  In Howard, the shackles were only leg restraints, limited to first appearances, and only before magistrate judges.  The policy in Cal Southern was, again, for five point restraints, at all nonjury proceedings, before all judges. The situations in the courthouses were also different.

The 9th stated that the US Marshal simply could not rely on staffing strains. The other security reasons (demographics, a few incidents, volume) did not rise to support such a blanket policy.  There needs to be greater justification.

Congrats to Ellis Johnston and Sherleen Charlick of the Fed Defenders of San Diego for a humane and resounding win.

The decision is here:



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