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Martinez-Brooks v. Garland

Did we achieve our litigation objective? Yes. Dianthe Martinez-Brooks was allowed to continue her rehabilitation in home confinement, instead of being forced to go back to prison, in contravention of the CARES Act.

Court Outcome: Case dismissed after Attorney General Merrick Garland acknowledged NCLA’s argument and changed the Bureau of Prisons policy.

Larger Impact: NCLA’s argument in this case was so irrefutable that when Merrick Garland was made aware of the issue, he publicly agreed with NCLA during questioning in a Congressional hearing, at which point the government had no choice but to change its policy. Thousands of prisoners were allowed to continue their rehabilitation under the CARES Act, because NCLA forced COP to follow the statue Congress passed.

Summary: NCLA sought to obtain declaratory relief and to halt DOJ’s effort to disregard prior court decisions on prison alternatives for nonviolent and medically vulnerable people.

NCLA represented Dianthe Martinez-Brooks, a 52-year-old nonviolent first-time offender then serving a federal prison term on home confinement. BOP released her from prison after determining that she posed no threat to the public but was at serious risk of severe illness or death should she contract Covid-19 in prison—in accordance with Attorney General William Barr’s “home confinement” memorandum.

According to statute, BOP must always evaluate use of home confinement as “pre-release custody” for those inmates in the last six months of their sentence. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed by Congress in March 2020 directed BOP to use home confinement for medically vulnerable people. Neither the relevant statute nor the CARES Act’s applicable section deprived BOP of its discretion to make an initial placement outside of a prison setting. Likewise, neither the relevant statute nor the CARES Act required BOP to revoke home confinement for medically vulnerable people after six months.

Nevertheless, in January 2021, BOP’s General Counsel directed the agency to order the return of more than 4,000 inmates once the declared Covid-19 emergency ended, regardless of the nature of their offenses or their conduct while on home confinement. NCLA believed the agency had wrongly interpreted an obligation to release people to home confinement near the end of their sentences as a limit on how long anyone could be released to home confinement, no matter why they were released initially.

This interpretation contradicted several federal court decisions, including one from the Third Circuit, the pertinent jurisdiction in this case, which held that this statute did not preclude having a defendant serve a much longer portion of her term on home confinement. To the contrary, the Third Circuit specifically stated that BOP was obligated to evaluate each individual’s circumstances and make a determination as to where she should serve the entirety of her sentence.

NCLA argued that the statute vested BOP with sufficient discretion to allow Ms. Martinez-Brooks to serve the remainder of her sentence on home confinement.

Dianthe Martinez-Brooks, Plaintiff

Kara Rollins
Litigation Counsel
Jenin Younes
Litigation Counsel
NCLA FILINGS

Memorandum Opinion for the Attorney General

December 21, 2021 | Read More

Plaintiff’s Sur-Reply in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss

November 12, 2021 | Read More

Defendants Reply Brief in Support of Their Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1)

November 8, 2021 | Read More

Plaintiff’s Response in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss

October 25, 2021 | Read More

Defendants Brief in Support of Their Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1)

September 7, 2021 | Read More

PRESS RELEASES

In Reversal After NCLA Suit, DOJ to Allow Prisoners Moved to Home Confinement for Covid to Stay

December 22, 2021 | Read More

NCLA Refutes BOP’s Attempt to Dismiss Home Confinement Lawsuit for Medically Vulnerable Inmate

October 26, 2021 | Read More

NCLA Tells Court Bureau of Prisons May Keep Inmates on Home Confinement Post-Covid

May 18, 2021 | Read More

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