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United States v. Sanchez-Gomez

United States Supreme Court

May 14, 2018


          Argued March 26, 2018


         The judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California adopted a districtwide policy permitting the use of full restraints-handcuffs connected to a waist chain, with legs shackled-on most in-custody defendants produced in court for nonjury proceedings by the United States Marshals Service. Respondents Jasmin Morales, Rene Sanchez-Gomez, Moises Patricio-Guzman, and Mark Ring challenged the use of such restraints in their respective cases and the restraint policy as a whole. The District Court denied their challenges, and respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Before that court could issue a decision, respondents' underlying criminal cases ended. The court-viewing the case as a "functional class action" involving "class-like claims" seeking "class-like relief, " 859 F.3d 649, 655, 657-658-held that this Court's civil class action precedents saved the case from mootness. On the merits, the Court of Appeals held the policy unconstitutional.


This case is moot. Pp. 3-12.
(a) The federal judiciary may adjudicate only "actual and concrete disputes, the resolutions of which have direct consequences on the parties involved." Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk, 569 U.S. 66, 71. Such a dispute "must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed." Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 401. A case that becomes moot at any point during the proceedings is thus outside the jurisdiction of the federal courts. See Already, LLC v. Nike, Inc., 568 U.S. 85, 91. Pp. 3-4.
(b) In concluding that this case was not moot, the Court of Appeals relied upon this Court's class action precedents, most prominently Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103. That reliance was misplaced. Ger-stein was a class action respecting pretrial detention brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The named class representatives' individual claims had apparently become moot before class certification. This Court held that the case could nonetheless proceed, explaining that due to the inherently temporary nature of pretrial detention, no named representative might be in custody long enough for a class to be certified. Gerstein does not support a freestanding exception to mootness outside the class action context. It belongs to a line of cases that this Court has described as turning on the particular traits of Rule 23 class actions. See, e.g., Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393; United States Parole Comm'nv. Geraghty, 445 U.S. 388; Genesis HealthCare, 569 U.S. 66. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure establish for criminal cases no vehicle comparable to the civil class action, and this Court has never permitted criminal defendants to band together to seek prospective relief in their individual cases on behalf of a class. Here, the mere presence of allegations that might, if resolved in respondents' favor, benefit other similarly situated individuals cannot save their case from mootness. See id., at 73. That conclusion is unaffected by the Court of Appeals' decision to recast respondents' appeals as petitions for supervisory mandamus. Pp. 4- 9.
(c) Respondents do not defend the reasoning of the Court of Appeals, and instead argue that the claims of two respondents- Sanchez-Gomez and Patricio-Guzman-fall within the "exception to the mootness doctrine for a controversy that is capable of repetition, yet evading review." Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States, 579 U.S.__, __ (internal quotation marks omitted). Respondents claim that the exception applies because Sanchez-Gomez and Patricio-Guzman will again violate the law, be apprehended, and be returned to pretrial custody. But this Court has consistently refused to "conclude that the case-or-controversy requirement is satisfied by" the possibility that a party "will be prosecuted for violating valid criminal laws." O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 497. Respondents argue that this usual refusal to assume future criminal conduct is unwarranted here given the particular circumstances of Sanchez-Gomez's and Patricio-Guzman's offenses. They cite two civil cases-Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, and Turner v. Rogers, 564 U.S. 431-i');">564 U.S. 431-in which this Court concluded that the expectation that a litigant would repeat the misconduct that gave rise to his claims rendered those claims capable of repetition. But Honig and Turner are inapposite because they concerned litigants unable, for reasons beyond their control, to prevent themselves from transgressing and avoid recurrence of the challenged conduct. Sanchez-Gomez and Patricio-Guzman, in contrast, are "able-and indeed required by law"-to refrain from further criminal conduct. Lane v. Williams, 455 U.S. 624, 633, n. 13. No departure from the settled rule is warranted. Pp. 9-12.

859 F.3d 649, vacated and remanded.


          Roberts, Chief Justice

         Four criminal defendants objected to being bound by full restraints during pretrial proceedings in their cases, but the District Court denied relief. On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the use of such restraints was unconstitutional, even though each of the four criminal cases had ended prior to its decision. The question presented is whether the appeals were saved from mootness either because the defendants sought "class-like relief" in a "functional class action, " or because the challenged practice was "capable of repetition, yet evading review."


         It is the responsibility of the United States Marshals Service to "provide for the security . . . of the United States District Courts." 28 U.S.C. §566(a). To fulfill that duty, the United States Marshal for the Southern District of California requested that the judges of that district permit the use of full restraints on all in-custody defendants during nonjury proceedings. When "full restraints" are applied, "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." 859 F.3d 649, 653 (CA9 2017) (en banc). In support of his proposal, the Marshal cited safety concerns arising from understaffing, past incidents of violence, and the high volume of in-custody defendants produced in the Southern District. The judges agreed to the Marshal's request, with modifications providing that a district or magistrate judge may require a defendant to be produced without restraints, and that a defendant can request that this be done. See App. 78-79.

         Respondents Jasmin Morales, Rene Sanchez-Gomez, Moises Patricio-Guzman, and Mark Ring were among the defendants produced by the Marshals Service for pretrial proceedings in full restraints. They raised constitutional objections to the use of such restraints in their respective cases, and to the restraint policy as a whole. They noted that the policy had resulted in the imposition of full restraints on, for example, a woman with a fractured ...

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