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Name: United States v. Sanchez-Gomez
Case #: 13-50562
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 08/25/2015
Summary

Court policy of producing pretrial detainees in full shackle restraints for appearances before a judge was not supported by adequate justification of its necessity. The judges of the Southern District of California deferred to the recommendations of the United States Marshals to place pretrial detainees in full shackle restraints for most appearances before a judge, unless a judge requested the restraints be removed in a particular case. The policy was adopted after some security incidents, coupled with understaffing, created an inability of the Marshals Service to provide adequate security in the San Diego courthouse. Several defendants unsuccessfully challenged the policy, and appealed. Held: Policy vacated and cases remanded for further proceedings. In Deck v. Missouri (2005) 544 U.S. 622, the Court identified three legal principles adversely affected by shackling in the presence of a jury: (1) it undermines the presumption of innocence; (2) it can impede a defendant’s communication with counsel and ability to participate in his defense; and (3) it tends to affront the dignity and decorum of the judicial process. The fact that the general shackling policy at issue concerns proceedings before a judge rather than a jury does not support it; adequate justification of its necessity is still required. (See United States v. Howard (9th Cir. 2007) 480 F.3d 1005.) Here, financial burdens and staffing issues were the dominant factors supporting the policy. Although the Marshals’ report cited incidents of violence and a change in inmate demographics, it failed to point to the cause or magnitude of any increased security risk, or to demonstrate that less restrictive measures would not suffice.