Published on: Monday, December 11, 2017

On December 8th, the Supreme Court granted the government’s certiorari petition in United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, No. 17-312, to decide “[w]hether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit erred in asserting authority to review respondents' interlocutory challenge to pretrial physical restraints and in ruling on that challenge notwithstanding its recognition that respondents' individual claims were moot.” 

In the Ninth Circuit below, pretrial detainees petitioned for mandamus relief to challenge the Southern District of California’s policy of routinely shackling all pretrial detainees in the courtroom without an individual determination that they posed a material risk of flight or violence.  See United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, et al., 859 F.3d 649 (9th Cir. 2017) (opinion attached here).  In Deck v. Missouri, 544 U.S. 622 (2005), the Supreme Court held that “the Constitution forbids the use of visible shackles during the penalty phase, as it forbids their use during the guilt phase, unless that use is justified by an essential state interest—sucfh as the interest in courtroom security—specific to the defendant on trial.” Id. at 624 (quotation marks  omitted).  In Sanchez-Gomez, the Ninth Circuit clarified “the scope of the right and h[e]ld that it applies whether the proceeding is pretrial, trial, or sentencing, with a jury or without.”  Id. at 661.  “Before a presumptively innocent defendant may be shackled, the court must make an individualized decision that a compelling government purpose would be served and that shackles are the least restrictive means for maintaining security and order in the courtroom.” 

Respondent Sanchez-Gomez is represented by Reuben C. Cahn, Federal Defender San Diego, California, and Ellis M. Johnston, III, of San Diego, California.  The Training Division provides resources on issues related to bail here.