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Eighth Circuit Affirms Over $278,000 Awarded to Minnesota Jail Detainee Held on Bad ICE Referral Policy

by David M. Reutter

On November 30, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a $30,001 jury award and a fee award over $248,000 to a Minnesota jail detainee who alleged she was falsely imprisoned by Anoka County’s discriminatory policy of referring all foreign-born arrestees to federal U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Myriam Parada was booked into the county jail after an officer found she was driving without a license. During the booking process, she was required to disclose that she was born in Mexico. Despite then being “[r]eady for release,” Parada was held by Anoka County while it contacted ICE.

As the Court later recalled, the release delay was due to the County’s “unwritten policy requiring its employees to contact ICE every time a foreign-born individual is detained, irrespective of whether the person is a U.S. citizen.” Waiting on a reply that “could take between 20 minutes and 6 hours” unconstitutionally delayed her release, Parada claimed.

Parada filed suit in federal court for the District of Minnesota, alleging violation of the Equal Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment and false imprisonment. The district court allowed both claims to survive summary judgment, finding the policy in fact violated the Fourteenth Amendment. But it left damages for jury determination. It also left it to the jury to determine liability and damages on the false-imprisonment claim.

The jury found liability on the false imprisonment claim, awarding Parada $30,000. It also awarded $1 on her Fourteenth Amendment claim. Anoka County moved for judgment as a matter of law. But the district court denied that request on August 17, 2021, also awarding $248,218.13 in fees and costs for Parada’s Minneapolis attorneys: Alain M. Baudry and Matthew R. Veenstra of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP; Amanda R. Cefalu of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c.; Nathan T Boone of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.; as well as Ian Bratlie and Teresa J. Nelson of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. See: Parada v. Anoka Cty., 555 F. Supp. 3d 663 (D. Minn. 2021).

The county appealed to the Eighth Circuit. But the Court found no error in the district court’s decision, calling the county’s policy “a classic example of national-origin discrimination.”

“On its face, it treats people differently depending on where they were born,” the Court explained.

Even assuming Anoka County had a compelling interest in serving as a good law enforcement partner to ICE, the county’s “bigger problem” is its “scatter-shot approach to accomplishing its interest,” the Court continued. “By its own statistics, more than half of the foreign-born individuals it referred to ICE turned out to be American citizens.”

Moreover, there were lawful alternatives available, the Court said: The county could have directly asked detainees about their citizenship, rather than their country of birth. If there were reason to doubt the answer, the subsequent ICE referral would at least be based on “specific and articulable facts.”

The jury found that the county’s unwritten policy led to Parada’s false imprisonment, a finding that the Court upheld as well as the jury’s award of damages. The Eighth Circuit further sustained the attorney fee award, affirming the district court’s judgment entirely. See Parada v. Anoka Cty., 54 F.4th 1016 (8th Cir. 2022).

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