Case: Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Lunn

20-12276 | Massachusetts state trial court

Filed Date: Feb. 8, 2017

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On Feb. 8, 2017, a petitioner filed this case in the Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk, Massachusetts. Represented by counsel at the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Committee for Public Counsel Services, petitioner sued the respondent Commonwealth of Massachusetts.In his Mar. 2, 2017 brief, petitioner alleged he is a noncitizen arraigned by local law enforcement in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, on a criminal charge. While he was in custody, Immigration and Customs Enfo…

On Feb. 8, 2017, a petitioner filed this case in the Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk, Massachusetts. Represented by counsel at the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Committee for Public Counsel Services, petitioner sued the respondent Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In his Mar. 2, 2017 brief, petitioner alleged he is a noncitizen arraigned by local law enforcement in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, on a criminal charge. While he was in custody, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a detainer on him, though he had no access to that document. The trial court dismissed his criminal case due to want of prosecution. Nevertheless, the trial court declined to release him from state criminal custody, and had court officers continue to hold him pursuant to the ICE detainer. Petitioner filed an emergency petition for release. Several hours past the time he normally would have been released, ICE agents arrived and took him into ICE custody. Although the trial court (the Suffolk County Superior Court) then found petitioner's emergency petition moot, one judge on the trial court reported the matter to the state's Supreme Judicial Court. This judge suggested that the Supreme Judicial Court consider the legality of a court's mandating that law enforcement hold an individual in custody, after they would otherwise be released, solely on the basis of an ICE detainer. Particularly, the judge noted that this was was a frequently recurring and important problem that might otherwise evade judicial review, given the 48-hour time limit on ICE detainers.

Petitioner likewise asked the Supreme Judicial Court to consider this issue on the merits. Petitioner alleged that by honoring ICE detainers to hold individuals past their normal release time, courts mandate state and local law enforcement to carry out a new, unlawful, and unconstitutional arrest for federal civil immigration purposes, in violation of the Tenth Amendment, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and state law. Furthermore, because ICE detainers require no judicial oversight, no showing of probable cause before seizure, and no fair notice, petitioner alleged that detainers violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments as well as analogous sections of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.

On Feb. 17, 2017, the Suffolk County Sheriff moved to intervene on behalf of respondent. The Sheriff was concerned that if a court ordered the Sheriff to hold an individual pursuant to an ICE detainer, the Sheriff would need to violate the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments and sections of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.

On Mar. 10, 2017, counsel from the Department of Justice informed the court that DOJ was considering whether to file an amicus brief by Mar. 27.

On Mar. 20, 2017, counsel from the ACLU of Massachusetts, the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, the Federal Immigration Appeals Project, criminal defense organizations, immigration law scholars, legal clinics at Harvard and Boston University, and private counsel, filed amicus briefs on behalf of plaintiff.

Also on Mar. 20, 2017, respondent Commonwealth and intervenor-respondent Suffolk County Sheriff filed a brief. Respondents argued that ICE detainers are voluntary and not mandatory, and thus not in conflict with the Tenth Amendment. Furthermore, while respondents saw ICE detainers as raising serious constitutional concerns under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, they also argued that Massachusetts state law does not authorize detention solely on the basis of an ICE detainer (if unsupported by a warrant or probable cause of civil removability). Respondents stated, therefore, that the court need not reach the constitutional questions.

DOJ on Mar. 27-29, 2017 requested permission to file an amicus brief (in support of neither party) and to participate in oral argument. The court on Mar. 31 granted these requests. DOJ's amicus brief argued that states may temporarily hold noncitizens subject to a final order of removal in response to an ICE detainer, and that such holds do not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Oral argument was held on Apr. 4, 2017. Afterward, on Apr. 13, DOJ submitted to the court a post-argument letter.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on July 24, 2017 issued a ruling, holding that "Massachusetts law provides no authority for Massachusetts court officers to arrest and hold an individual solely on the basis of a Federal civil immigration detainer, beyond the time that the individual would otherwise be entitled to be released from State custody." 477 Mass. 517.

In its reasoning, the Court clarified that an ICE detainer is civil and not criminal, because it relates only to the immigration removal process. Second, a detainer is voluntary and not federally mandated, per the INA and the Tenth Amendment. However, a requested detention as in this case constitutes an arrest under Massachusetts law, because the individual is held for 48 hours after being entitled to release from state custody. The court officers who arrested petitioner did so without a warrant or other situation permitting his arrest under state criminal or even civil law. Therefore, since they arrested him based solely on a federal civil immigration detainer, they had no authority to do so under Massachusetts common or statutory law.

Furthermore, the Court rejected several of DOJ's arguments. The Court disagreed with DOJ that Massachusetts officials have "inherent authority" to carry out detention requests made by federal detainers, and specified that Massachusetts officials' arrest powers are limited by state law. Also, the Court interpreted INA § 287(g) (8 U.S.C. § 1357(g)) as allowing but not mandating state cooperation with federal immigration enforcement in making arrests.

The Court then remanded the case to the county court to dismiss petitioner's case as moot and to enter a judgment consistent with the ruling.

In news reports on the ruling, the Massachusetts AG commented that this appears to be the first such decision by a state high court, interpreting state law to limit state compliance with civil immigration detainers.

This case appears to be closed.

Summary Authors

Ava Morgenstern (7/25/2017)

People


Judge(s)

Lenk, Barbara A. (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Barnett, Jessica V. (Massachusetts)

Colb, Sara A. (Massachusetts)

Zanini, John P. (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Fleming, Mark C. (Massachusetts)

Hackett, Alyssa (Massachusetts)

Winger, Emma Curtis (Massachusetts)

Winger [inactive], Emma C. (Massachusetts)

Other Attorney(s)

Active

Active

Judge(s)

Lenk, Barbara A. (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Barnett, Jessica V. (Massachusetts)

Colb, Sara A. (Massachusetts)

Zanini, John P. (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Fleming, Mark C. (Massachusetts)

Hackett, Alyssa (Massachusetts)

Winger, Emma Curtis (Massachusetts)

Winger [inactive], Emma C. (Massachusetts)

Other Attorney(s)

Amdur, Spencer (New York)

Ameri, Laila (Massachusetts)

Ardalan, Sabrineh (Massachusetts)

Darrow, Joseph A. (District of Columbia)

Forbes, Allen H. (Massachusetts)

Jadwat, Omar C. (New York)

Lasch, Christopher Nelson (Connecticut)

Loor, Karen Pita (Massachusetts)

Mayer, Kristen Valerie (Massachusetts)

Murray-Tjan, Laura (Massachusetts)

Nemirow, Kim (Massachusetts)

Peachey, William Charles (District of Columbia)

Press, Joshua S. (District of Columbia)

Readler, Chad Andrew (District of Columbia)

Reuveni, Erez (District of Columbia)

Rossman, Jessie J. (Massachusetts)

Rotolo, Laura (Massachusetts)

Segal, Matthew (Massachusetts)

Torrey, Philip L. (Massachusetts)

Williams, Carlton (Massachusetts)

Wofsy, Cody H. (California)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket

Massachusetts state supreme court

April 18, 2017 Docket

Suffolk County Sheriff's Motion to Intervene

Massachusetts state supreme court

Feb. 17, 2017 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Brief and Record Appendix for Petitioner-Appellant Sreynuon Lunn

Massachusetts state supreme court

March 1, 2017 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Letter Motion from the Department of Justice Re: Commonwealth v. Lunn, SJC-12276

Massachusetts state supreme court

March 9, 2017 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Brief of Amicus Curiae Boston University School of Law Criminal Clinic Defenders in Support of Petitioner

Massachusetts state supreme court

March 20, 2017 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Brief for Amici Curiae Bristol County Bar Advocates, Inc., Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Pilgrim Advocates, Inc., and Suffolk Lawyers for Justice, Inc. in Support of Petitioner-Appellant

Massachusetts state supreme court

March 20, 2017 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Brief for Amicus Curiae Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program in Support of Appellant

Massachusetts state supreme court

March 20, 2017 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Brief for Immigration Legal Academics as Amici Curiae

Massachusetts state supreme court

March 20, 2017 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Brief of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Suffolk County Sherif

Massachusetts state supreme court

March 20, 2017 Pleading / Motion / Brief
24

Brief of the United States as Amicus Curiae in Support of Neither Party

March 27, 2017 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Resources

Title Description External URL

Court Officers Can’t Hold People Solely Under ICE Detainers, Massachusetts Justices Rule

Jess Bidgood

BOSTON — The highest state court in Massachusetts ruled on Monday that court officers do not have the authority, under state law, to hold people in custody based solely on the requests from federal i… July 24, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/24/us/immigration-detainer-ice-massachusetts.html

“Commonwealth v. Lunn” and “Lunn v. Smith”

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts

On March 20, 2017, the ACLU of Massachusetts together with Ropes & Gray, the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and the Federal Immigration Appeals Project submitted an amicus brief in Commonwealth v.… July 24, 2017 https://aclum.org/cases-briefs/commonwealth-v-lunn/

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Massachusetts

Case Type(s):

Immigration and/or the Border

Key Dates

Filing Date: Feb. 8, 2017

Case Ongoing: Unknown

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Noncitizen held in Massachusetts state criminal custody after his criminal charges were dismissed, pursuant to an ICE detainer, and then taken into ICE custody.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU National (all projects)

ACLU Affiliates (any)

ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Commonwealth of Massachusetts, State

Defendant Type(s):

Law-enforcement

Jurisdiction-wide

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens

State law

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.

Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Unreasonable search and seizure

Federalism (including 10th Amendment)

Special Case Type(s):

Appellate Court is initial court

Availably Documents:

Complaint (any)

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Declaratory Judgment

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Issues

General:

Over/Unlawful Detention

Type of Facility:

Government-run

Immigration/Border:

Constitutional rights

Criminal prosecution

Detention - criteria

Detention - procedures