A judge will allow a woman accusing the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office of racial discrimination to again depose the deputies who arrested her.

Roxana Orellana Santos filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2009 against Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, the arresting deputies and the then-Board of County Commissioners, seeking more than $1 million in damages.

The aspects of the lawsuit holding the officers personally liable have been dismissed. Santos’ attorneys hope the further questioning will help resolve whether or not Jenkins or the county can be held responsible in their official capacity.

Santos argued that the deputies targeted her because she is Latina. She alleges that when Jeffrey Openshaw and Kevin Lynch arrested her in October 2008 as she was eating lunch outside her workplace, they violated her civil rights.

She hadn’t committed a crime, but the officers checked her immigration status and found she had a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement civil deportation warrant. Santos was arrested and spent 37 days in jail before being released to immigration enforcement.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled on Santos’ suit in 2013, finding that the officers cannot be held personally liable in the case because they could not have known the civil warrant did not authorize an arrest.

Then in June, the U.S. District Court dismissed the personal claims against Frederick County and its sheriff.

Those decisions left only the question of whether Santos can hold the defendants liable in their official capacity.

Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson signed an order filed Jan. 4 allowing Santos’ attorneys to question Openshaw and Lynch regarding the county’s liability and new allegations that came up after the case was remanded to the lower court.

He determined that Santos didn’t have ample opportunity to do so during the initial depositions.

The court will ultimately need to decide if county policy required the officers to arrest Santos on a civil immigration warrant and whether Jenkins was acting on behalf of the state or the county.

If Jenkins is considered a state official, then the county could not be held liable for damages. Jenkins couldn’t be sued either because he would be entitled to 11th Amendment protection, which keeps states from being sued in federal courts.

Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiLoos.

(2) comments


Amazing, simply amazing, that this illegal has been allowed to tie up the American taxpayer's money and the judicial system for almost eight years. Hopefully, when she loses this last grasp at hitting the lottery, she'll be shipped out and also, hopefully, with a president who has a backbone now, this kind of garbage will cease.

Charles Jenkins

Preach CDReid!

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