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Federal Court Certifies Class in Lawsuit Challenging Adequacy of Safeguards Provided To Mentally Incompetent Aliens in Immigration Proceedings

In November 2011, the Honorable Dolly M. Gee, U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California, certified a class in a suit alleging a systemic failure on the part of immigration judges in three states to provide adequate procedural safeguards and due process to mentally incompetent aliens in detention and removal proceedings. The class consists of all individuals who are or will be in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security for removal proceedings in California, Arizona, or Washington, who may be mentally incompetent to represent themselves in detention or removal proceedings, and who lack counsel in those proceedings.

Due to privacy concerns, the order certifying the class was initially filed under seal. A month later, it was ordered unsealed.

The Court found that the exact size of the class was unknown; that the information necessary to identify class members was within defendants' control; that there were at least 55 class members as of February 14, 2010; and that this number was sufficiently large to warrant class certification. It also found the existence of legal questions common to the class, including (1) whether the Constitution or statutory law requires the Government to conduct competency evaluations in immigration proceedings and (2) whether the Constitution or statutory law requires the Government to appoint counsel for those found incompetent to represent themselves.

The Court certified the class under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(2) because it found, consistent with that Rule, that "the party opposing the class has acted or refused to act on grounds that apply generally to the class, so that final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief is appropriate respecting the class as a whole."

The Court certified Ahilan T. Arulanantham, Judy London, Talia Inlender, Michael H. Steinberg, Judy Rabinovitz, David Blair-Loy, Sean Riordan, James Preis, and Matt Adams as class counsel. Sources: Franco-Gonzalez v. Napolitano, Case No. 2:10-cv-02211-DIM-DTB, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal., 2011).

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Related legal case

Franco-Gonzalez v. Napolitano