Published on: Monday, May 14, 2018

In United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, No. 17-312, the Court addressed whether challenges to a district-wide policy of shackling pretrial detainees in most nonjury proceedings were moot. Four criminal defendants challenged the policy as a whole in the district court. The district court denied the challenges. While appeals were pending in the Ninth Circuit, the four cases were resolved, either by guilty pleas or dismissals. Nevertheless, the Ninth Circuit construed the appeals as an exercise of supervisory mandamus to prevent the appeals from being moot and agreed with the defendants’ challenge to the district-wide policy.

The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit. The Court found that the resolution of the four cases while the cases were pending in the appellate court rendered the appeals moot because there was no longer a live controversy. The Court rejected the Ninth Circuit’s recognition of “class-like claims” as a means to avoid mootness absent certification of an actual class. The Court also rejected the notion that exercising supervisory mandamus allowed an appellate court to go forward with an appeal lacking a live controversy. Finally, the Court rejected the four defendants’ argument that the controversy was not moot because it was capable of repetition yet evading review.

By finding the cases moot, the Court did not reach the merits of the four defendants’ claims. Nevertheless, the Court noted the possibility of a civil injunctive challenge to the district-wide policy.

The Training Division provides resources on challenging pretrial release/bail issues, here.