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Paul, Weiss and ACLU Secure Release of Six Additional Immigration Detainees in Expansive Ruling

Paul, Weiss, along with co-counsel ACLU Fund of Michigan and ACLU Foundation National Prison and Immigrants’ Rights Projects, secured the immediate release of an additional six medically vulnerable ICE detainees held at Calhoun County Correctional Center in Battle Creek, Michigan. Judge Judith Levy of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted a preliminary injunction for our clients, whose underlying medical conditions put them at high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

Judge Levy also issued an expansive and precedent-setting legal opinion about the proper constitutional standard to apply to our detainee clients. Adopting the less stringent Fifth Amendment Due Process standard over the Eighth Amendment standard, Judge Levy wrote that detaining medically vulnerable individuals during the pandemic, in an environment that does not allow them to socially distance, is unconstitutionally punitive. Judge Levy disposed of the defendants’ arguments that their limited precautionary measures, such as supplying detainees with face masks and free hand soap, sufficed to satisfy the government’s constitutional obligations. Judge Levy suggest that social distancing may be impossible at Calhoun, and that the facility could not provide constitutional conditions of confinement for the medically vulnerable unless it were “restructure[d] or even rebuil[t].” Judge Levy is one of the first judges in the country to adopt the more plaintiff-friendly Fifth Amendment framework.

This victory is part of an ongoing class action complaint brought by Paul, Weiss and the ACLU on behalf of 20 named plaintiffs seeking to represent a class of all detainees at Calhoun. The complaint seeks immediate release and/or declaratory relief for the class, asserting that Calhoun is not designed or equipped to handle the extraordinary public health crisis presented by COVID-19. The complaint further argues that, left unchecked, ICE’s failure to act will result in a needless and avoidable loss of life, and that certain members of the class are at an advanced age or suffer from medical conditions that put them at particularly high risk of post-infection complications. This was the fourth preliminary injunction Judge Levy has issued for our clients. In total, 12 of our clients have been released from detention: 11 by court order and 1 by ICE as a result of our filings. Our motion to certify the class is pending.

The Paul, Weiss team includes litigation partners Mark Mendelsohn and Jeannie Rhee, counsel Rachel Fiorill and Peter Jaffe, and associates Akila Bhargava, Jacob Braly, Matthew Driscoll, Jessica Finberg, Geanette Foster, Katharine Gadsden, Darren Gardner, Joseph Granzotto, Aaron Haier, Eugenie Iseman, Stanton Lawyer, Rebecca Lockert, Sarah Maneval, Bethlehem Mebratu, Parker Murray, Robert O’Loughlin, Breanne Palmer, Agbeko “Abbie” Petty, Samuel Prose, Edward Robinson, Oleg Shik and Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb. Nicholas La Forge, Ashley Martinez and Jae Hee Han from the Managing Attorney’s Office, as well as pro bono counsel Emily Goldberg and associate Jeremy Benjamin, provided invaluable support.

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