Sunday, April 12, 2020

Order o' The Week: Jeremy Daniels and Changed Pretrial Release Analysis, Santa Rita Jail

  “[T]he COVID-19 pandemic and the reported infections at Santa Rita
Jail changes the [pretrial release] calculus.”
   United States v. Jeremy Daniels, CR 19-00709 LHK (NC), (N.D. Cal. Apr. 9, 2020) (Ord., Dkt. 24) at 2, available here.

Players: Important opinion by the Hon. Mag. Judge Nathanael Cousins, N.D. Cal. Admirable release fight by N.D. Cal. AFPD Dejan Gantar, standing on the shoulders of Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld’s righteous Babu case (with a particular nod to Rosen / CJA Counsel Jeff Bornstein).

The Hon. Magistrate Judge Cousins
Facts: In 2018, civil plaintiffs filed for relief against Santa Rita Jail. See Babu et al v. Ahern et al, 5:18-cv-07677 NC. The gist of Babu are complaints regarding mental-health treatment of inmates at Santa Rita Jail. All of the Babu parties consented to the Orjurisdiction of MJ Cousins, and the case has been in a civil slog for over two years.
   Two years later, Jeremy Daniels was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. See Daniels, CR 19-00709, Dkt. #1. On Christmas Eve, 2019, the USAO brought Daniels into court and invoked the automatic initial detentionfor 922(g) cases. Id. at Dkt. #2. 
  Roughly a week later, Magistrate Judge Cousins presided over a formal detention hearing, found Daniels a danger to the community, and ordered him detained. Id. at Dkt. #6. 
  As is true for over 95% of NorCal’s federal inmates (450 or so), Mr. Daniels was detained in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin,California.
  Then the world turned upside down.

  In February 2020 (or earlier), the COVID-19 pandemic roared into the Bay Area. By March 16, the NorCal District Court adopted G.O. 72, suspending physical court appearances. See GO 72 here 
  Meanwhile, a Santa Rita Jail nurse tested positive, then two inmates, then eleven, then thirteen: as of April 12, 2020, there are fifteen detainees and two staff / contractor COVID-19 cases.  See Santa Rita Jail COVID-19 Website, available here.
  As COVID-19 was ripping through the jail, in his role as the Babu jurist Magistrate Judge Cousins presided over weekly, public Santa Rita Jail status hearings (attended by many dozen members of the defense bar). The civil Babu litigation has produced, among other things, the invaluable SRJ COVID-19 web page. See Santa Rita Jail COVID-19 page here.  
  Turning back to United States v. Daniels -- on April 6 AFPD Gantar moved to reopen the detention hearing on behalf of his client. Id. at Dkt. 19. After the defense and the government exchanged briefs, MJ Cousins presided over a contested (telephonic) detention hearing.

Issue(s): Does the danger presented by COVID-19 at Santa Rita Jail impact the pretrial release analysis?

Held: Although the Court previously found that Daniels constituted a danger to the community . . ., the COVID-19 pandemic and the reported infections at Santa Rita Jail changes the calculus. Daniels now has serious, potentially life-threatening incentives to obey the conditions of his release. Not only will Daniels be incentivized to comply with the conditions of his release to temporarily remain out of jail, Daniels is further incentivized to remain in place and avoid social contact lest he contracts COVID-19. These changed conditions mitigate Daniels’ risk of danger. For these reasons, the Court ORDERS Daniels temporarily released . . . pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142(i).” Daniels Ord. at 2:11-19 (emphases added); see order here.

Of Note: The Daniels Order provides a comprehensive analysis of the dangers presented by COVID-19 in Santa Rita Jail. Two particular aspects of the Daniels order bear particular emphasis. 
  First, Magistrate Judge Cousins is a former AUSA, and is known in NorCal as a measured and deliberate jurist. (Not for nothing did Santa Rita Jail consent to Judge Cousin's jurisdiction in Babu). 
  Second, MJ Cousins knows more about Santa Rita Jail than any other jurist alive, after presiding over the Babu civil litgation for over two years.
  Ergo, if Magistrate Judge Cousins is scared about Santa Rita Jail, we should all be scared.
  Read Daniels, then move to revisit that initial detention order of your federal client: the “pretrial release calculus” has radically changed, because of COVID-19 in Santa Rita Jail.   

How to Use: Successful COVID-19 release motions note the law, but their focus is really on the unique health risks faced by the specific client. In Daniels’, AFPD Gantar successfully argued that his client’s health history made COVID-19 particularly dangerous. Ord. at 2:11-14. 
  Make your client's COVID-19 co-morbidity health factors front and center in your motion to reconsider the MJ's initial detention order. See CDC List of Factors here
For Further Reading: Santa Rita Jail is on track to become as deeply infected with COVID-19 as Cook County Jail. 
Sign from Cook County Jail Detainees
  Easter in the Windy City has over 500 detainees and staff testing positive, and three detainee deaths. See Cook County web page here; see also article here.
   The urgent question for the Northern District of California is this: despite Alameda County’s best efforts, what precisely is Santa Rita Jail doing differently than Cook County Jail, that will permit NorCal to avoid Chicago’s grim fate?

Inage of the Honorable Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins from   

Steven Kalar, Federal Public Defender, N.D. Cal. Website at


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