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.
|Opinion Reversing and Remanding 3-4-13.pdf||226.24 KB|