In an unprecedented civil rights settlement with national implications, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has agreed to change its communications access policies at four ICE detention centers in Northern California. The class action lawsuit alleged that inadequate telephone access at the four immigration detention facilities violated detainees’ due process rights and rights to a full and fair hearing under federal law and the U.S. Constitution. An Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe team served as co-counsel in litigating the three-year-old lawsuit on behalf of a class of detained immigrants with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the ACLU’s National Prison Project and Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale.
The settlement ends severe restrictions on telephone use for immigrant detainees, and expands direct calling options that are free of charge on private telephones. Under the settlement, ICE has one year to make the changes, which include providing speed dials to make free, direct, unmonitored calls to government offices and immigration attorneys who provide pro bono services. The settlement also calls for installing phone booths for private calls, as well as private phone rooms for legal calls, timely access to phone rooms and monitoring of ICE compliance with the settlement terms.
“This case was about fundamental fairness in the system,” said Orrick of counsel Charles J. Ha. “Orrick is committed to providing legal assistance to the underserved in our community to secure their basic due process rights. This settlement agreement serves that goal by affording detainees increased access to counsel, and to the witnesses, evidence and information they need to vindicate their rights under our immigration laws.”
In addition to Charles Ha, Orrick partner Bob Varian led the firm’s pro bono work on the case. The other members on the effort included: Trish Higgins, of counsel, and associates Dave Keenan, Christopher Siebens, Judy Kwan, Alexis Yee-Garcia, Emily Brown, former associates Christine Smith and Matthew Kugizaki and legal assistants, Lenny Patts and Manu Salas.
Orrick ranks among the top 10 law firms in the U.S. for its commitment to pro bono work, according to the American Lawyer.