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Mendoza v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 21, 2017

Ramon Mendoza Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement; John Does, #1-5 Defendants Laura Mendoza Plaintiff Jeff Davis, Sarpy County, Nebraska Sheriff Defendant-Appellee John Does, #6-10 Defendants-Appellees Justin Osterberg, individually; Sarpy County, Nebraska Defendants-Appellees

          Submitted: November 17, 2016

         Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Nebraska - Omaha

          Before COLLOTON, BEAM, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

          BEAM, Circuit Judge.

         Ramon Mendoza appeals the district court's[1] grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants Justin Osterberg; Sarpy County, Nebraska (the County); John Does 6-10[2] (the County employees); and Sheriff Davis on numerous claims based on an improper immigration detainer issued on March 5, 2010, and withdrawn on March 8, 2010. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mendoza is a naturalized United States citizen with the full birth name Ramon Mendoza Gallegos. He typically uses the name Ramon Mendoza. Mendoza has a valid United States passport and a Social Security card and number issued by the Social Security Administration. Mendoza has never been charged with or convicted of a state or federal felony but has several convictions for driving-related offenses. At the time of the incident relevant to this case, there were no outstanding warrants for his arrest.

         At approximately 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 5, 2010, while driving his niece's vehicle, Mendoza was pulled over by police officers for having an obstructed view. Mendoza did not have a driver's license or the vehicle's registration. He was arrested for driving with a revoked license. The officers told him that he would be taken to the Sarpy County Jail to be processed and then released. Mendoza was booked on the state charges of driving under revocation of a license, no proof of insurance, and obstructed view. Sarpy County Deputy Lyle was at the intake desk and began the intake process. Lyle asked Mendoza questions and wrote Mendoza's responses on a preprinted intake form. They communicated in English. Mendoza gave his name, address, and other information, but he misstated the last digit of his social security number. When asked for his city of birth, he stated that he did not know. Because Lyle's shift ended, he did not complete Mendoza's intake form. Deputy Titus continued the intake procedure with Mendoza. Titus and Mendoza communicated in English. In his deposition, Titus stated that he did not specifically recall this encounter with Mendoza, but he recognized his handwriting on the intake form. The final intake form stated that Mendoza was not a United States citizen and that his language was Spanish. At no time during the intake procedure did Mendoza disclose his United States citizenship status. Mendoza claims none of the officers asked about his citizenship. Mendoza signed the completed intake form. He also signed a 48hour waiver form, waiving his right to appear before a judge expeditiously.

         In the normal course, after the intake paperwork is completed, deputies pass the paperwork to booking clerks who input the data into the jail's computerized booking software, follow up with other agencies as necessary, and assign each arrestee to temporary housing. The booking clerks on duty on March 5, 2010, were Mary Sortino and Brandi Chase, neither of whom have a specific recollection of Mendoza's paperwork. As part of the Sarpy County Jail's policy, the booking staff is supposed to update the inmate's records from prior periods of incarceration. This was the fourth time Mendoza had been booked at the Sarpy County Jail. The three prior records showed the same name, address, date of birth, and place of birth. However, in October 2006, Mendoza gave a social security number that differed in four digits from his actual number. Also relevant, the prior records showed that he was a United States citizen and that his language was English. A record from 2008 showed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that Mendoza was a United States citizen. This note from 2008, however, was entered in the "notes" portion of the "booking information" screen, a screen that was not normally accessed during the booking procedure and not available to all jail employees.

         Prior to March 2010, ICE sent a memorandum to the Sarpy County Jail requesting that booking clerks call ICE on its toll-free phone number whenever the jail received an inmate with a foreign birth place or any other reason that made the clerk uncertain of the arrestee's citizenship status. Because Mendoza's intake form noted that Mendoza was born in Mexico and that he was not a United States citizen, Sortino called ICE's toll-free number at 6:08 p.m. on March 5, 2010. In November 2009, Nebraska and Iowa ICE officers started a duty rotation to cover calls from law enforcement agencies that came in after hours, on weekends, or on holidays. An ICE agent was assigned the duty phone on a rotating basis and would handle all phone inquiries from law enforcement about particular individuals. The ICE agent determined whether to place an immigration detainer on any individual in custody. An immigration detainer is a notice to law enforcement that ICE seeks custody of an alien not legally in the United States. The detainer tells law enforcement that ICE intends to assume custody of the alien, requests information from law enforcement about the alien's impending release, and requests that law enforcement maintain custody of an alien who would otherwise be released for up to 48 hours, not including weekends or holidays. When determining whether to issue a detainer, ICE agents weigh evidence received from law enforcement and the individual, paying special attention to the person's social security number, place of birth, date of birth, and other identifying information. The ICE agent is also able to contact the Law Enforcement Service Center (LESC) to run database checks if the agent does not have access to the necessary databases.

         Osterberg, the ICE agent on duty on March 5, was working from his home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when he answered Sortino's call. This was the first time he had ever spoken to anyone from the Sarpy County Jail. This was also his first time handling a weekend duty assignment. Osterberg did not have direct access to any databases because the duty laptop was broken. Sortino's normal practice was to give the ICE agent the information from the intake form, including the inmate's name, date of birth, and whether the inmate denied United States citizenship. If asked, she would also provide the inmate's social security number, place of birth, and local charges. Sortino provided the name from the intake sheet, Ramon Mendoza. Osterberg testified that he was not told that Mendoza was claiming United States citizenship. Osterberg spoke with Mendoza, who provided his name (Ramon Mendoza), date of birth, parents' names, and social security number, and stated that he was born in Mexico. Mendoza never mentioned that he was a United States citizen.

         Osterberg then contacted LESC, provided Mendoza's information, and asked LESC to search their databases. LESC found two files that matched Mendoza's information. Both files had information about Ramon Mendoza with the same date of birth, social security number, and father's name. However, the two files had different names listed for the mother, different Alien File (A-File) numbers, and different second last names. The first file was for Ramon Mendoza-Gutierrez, an aggravated felon who was previously removed from the United States to Mexico on March 21, 2008. The second file was for Ramon Mendoza-Gallegos, a legal permanent resident. Because Osterberg was working from home on a weekend, he had no way to access the A-Files. It is very common, however, for one individual to have more than one A-File from various situations, such as if the person enters the United States illegally or where a person uses different aliases. Also, identity theft is very common among illegal aliens. Based on the matching social security number, date of birth, and father's name, Osterberg determined that the two files from LESC were "one and the same person." Thus, Osterberg concluded that he had probable cause to believe that the Sarpy County Jail had Ramon Mendoza-Gutierrez, an aggravated felon subject to removal.

         At approximately 6:19 p.m. on March 5, 2010, while Osterberg was collecting information and contacting LESC, Sortino conducted an initial National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database search and printed a report on Mendoza. Like the information from LESC, the NCIC report contained several possible individuals with the same or similar names and identical dates of birth. The report contained the following names: Ramon Mendoza, Ramon Mendoza-Gallegos, and Ramon Mendoza-Gutierrez. Because Mendoza misstated the last number of his social security number on the intake form, none of the social security numbers in the NCIC database exactly matched the social security number Mendoza reported on March 5. Mendoza-Gallegos had the same FBI number, state identification number, and birth date as the information for the person listed as Ramon Mendoza. The listing for Mendoza-Gallegos also had a social security number matching the person listed as Ramon Mendoza and a social security number only one digit off from the social security number listed on Mendoza's intake form. The Mendoza-Gallegos listing further showed a birthplace of Mexico and no information on citizenship. The listing for Mendoza-Gutierrez similarly contained the same birth date as Mendoza, as well as a social security number only one digit off from the social security number listed on Mendoza's intake form. "Ramon Mendoza" was also listed as an alias on the Mendoza-Gutierrez report.

         On March 5, 2010, Osterberg requested that LESC issue a detainer for Ramon Mendoza-Gutierrez. LESC faxed the detainer to the Sarpy County Jail. At approximately 8:00 p.m., jail staff entered data from the ICE detainer and the NCIC report into the booking system, including Ramon Mendoza-Gutierrez as an alias and the FBI number associated with Mendoza-Gutierrez. Mendoza was then fingerprinted. The fingerprint form contained the name "Ramon Mendoza-Gutierrez, " but Mendoza signed the form as "Ramon Mendoza." Osterberg did not obtain Mendoza's fingerprints because he had no way to receive them at his home. Later that evening, Sortino notified ICE that Mendoza was ready to be picked up. Osterberg had no further communication with the jail staff concerning Mendoza that weekend.

         After learning of the ICE detainer, Mendoza told Sarpy County Jail staff that he was a United States citizen, but he never asked to speak to an ICE agent. Mendoza's son, Richard, had followed the officers to the Sarpy County Jail after Mendoza was arrested. After Richard told the person over the intercom that his father was a United States citizen, he was told that his father was being detained because of a hold on immigration. Richard then called his mother, Mendoza's wife. Mendoza's wife claims she came to the jail's 24-hour entrance at least three times that weekend with Mendoza's naturalization certificate, United States passport, and marriage license as proof of his citizenship. She claims that she spoke to someone over the intercom and showed papers to the camera in an effort to get Mendoza released. She also testified that on Sunday she was finally allowed into a secure second room where she spoke to a man who told her that they had "the guy [they] were looking for and he committed several crimes." Mendoza's wife claims that the man never took or commented on the documents she tried to show him. Sarpy County Jail officials testified that it is very rare for a person to come to the jail with papers claiming citizenship, but if someone had, the staff would have told the person to take the documents to ICE. The booking clerks agreed that this would have been the procedure followed in this situation. Mendoza's wife and son never contacted ICE. Thus, Osterberg never knew that anyone at the Sarpy County Jail was claiming or had evidence that Mendoza was a United States citizen.

         On Monday, March 8, 2010, Osterberg went to his office and reviewed the detainer sent on Friday evening for Ramon Mendoza-Gutierrez. Osterberg called the Sarpy County Jail and requested a copy of Mendoza's fingerprints. When he received Mendoza's fingerprints and ran them through the IDENT system in the Cedar Rapids office, the database showed that Mendoza's fingerprints did not match the prints of Ramon Mendoza-Gutierrez, the aggravated felon, but instead matched the second individual in the file, Ramon Mendoza-Gallegos. This was the first time Osterberg was able to confirm that the two files were, in fact, for two separate individuals. Osterberg immediately canceled the detainer that was issued on March 5, 2010, by faxing a document to the Sarpy County Jail. It was cancelled well before the 48-hour hold deadline. The booking clerk who received the fax from Osterberg processed Mendoza for release. Mendoza was taken to the hospital and treated for nausea and diarrhea.

         Alleging numerous violations of his constitutional rights, including a substantive due process claim, Mendoza filed a Bivens[3] claim against Osterberg and John Does 1-5[4] and a § 1983 claim against Davis, John Does 6-10, and the County. Mendoza further alleged that Osterberg, Davis, the John Does, and the County (collectively "Defendants") engaged in a civil conspiracy in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). This claim was based on the Sarpy County Jail's participation in the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which provides partial reimbursement funds to offset the cost of holding immigration prisoners for the federal government. Defendants moved for summary judgment. The district court held that "the facts [did] not establish the violation of a constitutional right." Because the district court found no violation of a constitutional right, Mendoza's claim for supervisory and municipal liability failed. Nonetheless, the district court found no evidence of "constitutionally deficient" policies or training. The district court also held that "Mendoza's substantive due process claim fail[ed] because it [was] 'covered' under the Fourth Amendment, " and even if it was not, there was no "conscience-shocking behavior that meets the ...


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