Keeping Courthouses Safe For All

Immigrant Rights

Civil Rights Groups Fight to Keep Courthouses Safe for All 

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR), the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), and Goodwin LLP presented oral argument in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to preserve a groundbreaking preliminary injunction blocking immigration officials from arresting people in and around Massachusetts courthouses. 

The injunction, the first of its kind in the country, was entered last July and stops ICE from conducting federal civil immigration arrests in Massachusetts courthouses, as well as of people going to, or coming from, court on official business. Prior to the entry of the injunction, courthouses were in turmoil with victims of domestic abuse, tenants facing eviction, and employees with stolen wages all chilled from accessing justice because of the threat of immigration enforcement. 

Since the injunction has been in place, the courts have once again become places where immigrants can go, without fear of arrest or deportation, and domestic violence victims in particular have sought court protection against abusers, often attending court with copies of the injunction in hand. Courts are now safe for victims and witnesses. Similar lawsuits were subsequently filed across the country using the Massachusetts victory as a blueprint. 

Despite the increased access to justice allowed by the injunction, the federal government is seeking to overturn it, leading to the battle today in the First Circuit.

“Immigration arrests in courthouses create major problems surrounding access to justice and the rule of law. Courthouses must remain safe for all who are seeking judicial redress. We must ensure that the courthouse doors are not permanently closed to people just based on their immigration status, and we will continue to fight for our clients as long as the federal government continues these unlawful and dehumanizing practices” said Attorney Oren Nimni of Lawyers for Civil Rights.

In the First Circuit, the Plaintiffs, including Massachusetts District Attorneys Rachael Rollins and Marian Ryan, CPCS, and the Chelsea Collaborative, will argue and demonstrate the extensive damage and harm done by ICE to Massachusetts courts. The case is bolstered by extensive amicus submissions seeking to protect access to justice including: a group of domestic violence advocacy organizations; a collection of state attorneys general from across the country representing the interests of their respective states; a cohort of Massachusetts ex-judges and justices; and a number of other bar associations and advocates.

On behalf of the Plaintiffs, oral argument will be presented by David Zimmer, a Partner at Goodwin LLP and Board Member of LCR, who is representing Plaintiffs on a pro bono basis. 

The case Ryan et al. v. ICE, No. 19-1838, is pending before the First Circuit.