U.S. appeals court remands Villegas decision, finds no bias by judge

Monday, March 4, 2013 at 2:07pm
030413 Juana Villegas main.jpg
Juana Villegas (file)

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the district court ruling that granted Juana Villegas summary judgment and lead to a jury awarding her $200,000 in damages after a trial.

The appeals court also remanded Juana Villegas v. The Metro. Gov’t of Nashville back to federal district court in Nashville for further proceedings.

Metro attorneys had also asked the 6th Circuit to reassign the Villegas case to another federal judge, claiming that U.S. District Court Judge William J. Haynes was biased against them.

The 6th Circuit Court denied Metro’s request stating that it failed to find evidence that Haynes’ criticisms of the Metro attorneys fell in the realm of favoritism or antagonism.

The ruling states, “The comments cited to us do not display such extreme bias. Rather, they reflect that Judge Haynes, though at times critical in his comments, was attempting to enforce the parameters that he established for the trial. Moreover, Judge Haynes made a number of rulings favorable to Defendant.”

6th Circuit Court judges Eric L. Clay and Julia Smith Gibbons wrote the opinion, which can be found here. Judge Helene N. White dissented.

Of the appeals court ruling filed Monday, Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said, “Today, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the U.S. District Court’s April 2011 summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff Juana Villegas in Juana Villegas v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. We are pleased with today’s reversal. The decision highlights that issues like those in this case should be resolved by juries rather than judges, which reinforces our decision to appeal the summary judgment ruling. I believe our officers followed accepted correctional practices and we look forward to continuing the legal process.”

Villegas is the undocumented mother of four detained in 2008 as part of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office’s implementation of the federal 287(g) program following a routine traffic stop by Berry Hill police. Villegas subsequently went into labor and was shackled to a hospital bed in the hours before and after childbirth, triggering the lawsuit against Metro that has garnered national attention.

In April 2011, Haynes granted Villegas summary judgment, ruling that the sheriff’s office’s actions violated her civil rights granted in the 14th Amendment’s due process clause. Later that year, a seven-member jury awarded Villegas $200,000 in damages, far less than the $1.2 million her lawyers sought.

The sheriff’s office opted out of 287(g) last fall when it allowed its memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements to expire.

Metro filed its formal appeal late last March.

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Opinion Reversing and Remanding 3-4-13.pdf226.24 KB

5 Comments on this post:

By: Jughead on 3/4/13 at 4:53

Good. That judge is a disaster. He needs to quit the case and get it to someone who is fair and has a clue.

By: jsnap on 3/5/13 at 9:44

Please remember this is the same judge who awarded Villegas's attorneys a sum of
$1.1 million instead of the 300 thousand they had billed for. You don't think he will not stick it to Metro. He needs to be disqualified from this case.

By: wasaw on 3/5/13 at 12:12

Readers, if you've never been before a U.S. Federal Judge, you don't know what you've missed. Because they are not answerable to the voters, they run their courtrooms as if they are kings.

Sometime in the late '70's, in my last year in the patrol division with the NMPD, I was sued by an out of state individual, who was apprehended by state correctional guards, attempting to cut the wire fence at a local state penitentiary. The defendants received injuries during their arrest. My partner and I transported the two defendants to the hospital and later to booking.

Early in the court proceedings, Judge Clure Morton suggested a summary judgment for the defendant. We, my partner and I, insisted on a jury trial. We were later found unanimously “Not Guilty" by a jury of middle Tennesseans. From my experience in Federal Court, I have little respect for its judges.

By: mg357 on 3/5/13 at 8:56

mg357...This case has been remanded back to Haynes court. According to the judgement rendered by the Sixth District Court, he ruled *questionably*. Here's some research on this woman if you care to follow. First, she was caught in 1996 trying to enter the US with false documents and later that year, she was issued an *order of exclusion/deportation by the courts and warned about the consequences of re-entry. Deportation order no. AO74393672. which she signed waiving her rights and agreeing to be deported. 10 days later, she re-entered the US and has been here since without any concerns until she was arrested for driving carelessly, no license or registration in a vehicle she did not own. She was served the active deportation order while in jail and now, after being here for 16 years, she becomes worried. She filed suit against Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano and homeland security for review of her deportation status, case number 09-3229 which was summarily denied. In truth, she is now a felon which could not be introduced into evidence in her previous trial but will be in this trial. Quite obviously, she has no regard for the laws of our country and should be deported with all due haste. One must realize that in the court system, no judge likes to have his orders questioned. In order to decide a case, all factors including history must be brought forth.

By: JeffF on 3/5/13 at 11:26

Anchors aweigh!!!!