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United States v. Lee

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 10, 2018

AHMED LEE, Defendant.


          Kent J. Dawson United States District Judge

         Presently before the Court is Defendant's Objections to Magistrate Judge's Order to Shackle Defendant (#18). The Government did not file a response, and the time to do so has passed.

         I. Background

         On August 31, 2017, Defendant appeared before Magistrate Judge Ferenbach in leg restraints. Prior to this initial appearance, the U.S. Marshals Office (“Marshals”) gave both counsel and the Magistrate Judge a prisoner restraint form which detailed why the Marshals felt leg restraints were appropriate for this particular Defendant. In this form, the Marshals stated that on August 8, 2017, Defendant had resisted arrest of an officer with a firearm. Based on that particular event, the Magistrate Judge had Defendant brought into the courtroom in leg restraints. However, prior to beginning Defendant's initial appearance, the Magistrate Judge held a hearing pursuant to U.S. v. Sanchez-Gomez, 850 F.3d 649 (9th Cir. 2017), to allow argument as to whether Defendant should remain in leg restraints for the remainder of the appearance.

         During this hearing, the Government stated that in addition to the Marshals' request, it too was requesting Defendant be placed, at a minimum, in leg restraints. The Government detailed the circumstances of Defendant's previous resisting of an officer. It stated that Defendant had forcibly resisted officers when they requested he accompany them outside of a 7-Eleven. Defendant reached for his waistband during the officers' attempt to detain him, and later the officers recovered a firearm that had been located in Defendant's front right pants pocket.

         Defendant had no factual objection to the Government's explanation, but instead stated that the Government's arguments were “not good arguments” under U.S. v. Sanchez-Gomez. Defendant argued there are three scenarios in which Sanchez-Gomez envisioned shackling, and that none of those scenarios were present here. Ultimately, the Magistrate Judge highlighted his responsibility to look at all factors, stating, “My job is to protect not only the court personnel . . . but the defendant himself from any acting out.” He stated he must look at factors that in his discretion and experience raise a safety concern, and that these particular facts raise a concern for this particular defendant. As such, Defendant remained in leg restraints during the hearing.

         On September 14, 2017, Defendant filed the present objections to the Magistrate Judge's ruling.

         II. Legal Standard

         “A non-dispositive order entered by a magistrate must be deferred to unless it is ‘clearly erroneous or contrary to law.'” Grimes v. County of San Francisco, 951 F.2d 236, 241 (9th Cir. 1991); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). The clearly erroneous standard applies to factual findings, and the contrary to law standard applies to legal determinations. Grimes, 951 F.2d at 240. A magistrate judge's order is “contrary to law when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of procedure.” U.S. v. Desage, 2017 WL 77415, at *3 (D. Nev. Jan. 9, 2017).

         Section 636(b)(1)(A) states a judge may reconsider any pretrial matter upon a showing that the magistrate judge's order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. Magistrate judges are given broad discretion and should not be overruled absent a showing of clear abuse of discretion. Anderson v. Equifax Info. Services, LLC, 2007 WL 2412249, at *1 (D. Or. 2007). As such, “[t]he reviewing court may not simply substitute its judgment for that of the deciding court.” Grimes, 951 F.2d at 241 (citing U.S. v. BNS, Inc., 858 F.2d 456, 464 (9th Cir. 1988)); see also Merritt v. International Broth. of Boilermakers, 649 F.2d 1013, 1016-17 (5th Cir. 1981) (“Pre-trial orders of a magistrate under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) . . . are not subject to a de novo determination as are a magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations under § 636(b)(1)(B).”).

         III. Analysis

         Defendant argues the Magistrate Judge's decision to place him in leg restraints was inconsistent with Ninth Circuit precedent U.S. v. Sanchez-Gomez. Defendant heavily relies on the following language in Sanchez-Gomez: “‘In all [ ] cases in which shackling has been approved, ' we have noted, there has been ‘evidence of disruptive courtroom behavior, attempts to escape from custody, assaults or attempted assaults while in custody, or a pattern of defiant behavior toward corrections officials and judicial authorities.'” Sanchez-Gomez, 859 F.3d at 660 (quoting Gonzalez v. Pliler, 341 F.3d 897, 900 (9th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original)[1]). Defendant argues “[t]hese are the circumstances the Court must find exist before shackling a defendant, ” and that “[i]ndividual facts that do not involve the type of disruptive behavior identified in Sanchez-Gomez do not justify the use of shackles.” (#18, at 6). However, Defendant's tunnel vision on these examples mischaracterizes what Sanchez-Gomez requires.[2] The Ninth Circuit states it plainly:

[W]e hold that if the government seeks to shackle a defendant, it must first justify the infringement with specific security needs as to that particular defendant. Courts must decide whether the stated need for security outweighs the infringement on a defendant's right. This decision cannot be deferred to security providers or presumptively answered by routine policies.the infringement on a defendant's right. ...

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