A federal judge has declined to dismiss the remaining claims against Frederick County officials after a woman’s arrest on a civil immigration warrant in 2008.
Earlier this year, attorneys for the county asked the judge to dismiss the remaining portions of a lawsuit filed in 2009 by Roxana Orellana Santos. Santos had also filed a motion seeking to amend her original complaint after the case wound its way through the federal court system for the past six years.
In an opinion last week, Judge William D. Quarles Jr. denied the county’s motion for dismissal because Santos’ attorneys will be allowed to file an amended complaint.
On Oct. 7, 2008, Santos was eating lunch outside the Common Market when Frederick County sheriff’s deputies saw her, stopped their car and questioned her about her immigration status, even though she had broken no laws, her attorneys said.
She was jailed for 37 days before she was released under the supervision of immigration authorities, according to court records.
Santos, a native of El Salvador, filed the $1 million discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners, Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and the two deputies, challenging whether it was legal to detain her without criminal probable cause and whether the deputies had the authority to arrest her on a civil, not criminal, warrant.
Santos’ attorneys want to file a new complaint focusing on the remaining issues in the case, and they argue that the case should not be dismissed before discovery, the formal process of obtaining evidence in legal cases. That process was cut short in 2012, when the lawsuit was dismissed by a different federal judge in Baltimore.
In seeking to block Santos’ attorneys from filing the amended complaint, the county argued that it would be hurt if the court allowed the evidence process to go forward now because “records and memories have been lost over the intervening years” and discovery “would be very burdensome in terms of time and financial cost.”
The judge wrote that he disagreed with the county’s argument, and “they should have taken steps to preserve relevant records.”
Santos’ attorneys are requesting more information about funding for policies and practices at the sheriff’s office, how the policies and objectives are established, details about training through Immigration and Customs Enforcement, review and supervision of the sheriff’s office by the former Board of County Commissioners and insurance coverage for the defense of the case, among other things.
In a memorandum, Quarles wrote that he agreed with the county on some points, and will not allow Santos to refile three of her claims, because she did not appeal a previous judge’s ruling in favor of the county on those counts, which alleged equal protection violations.
After a series of appeals and court opinions, the case remains in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to decide whether Frederick County officials are liable for Santos’ arrest and whether she is entitled to damages as a result.
Attorneys for the sheriff’s office and county government filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.
The county was seeking to overturn a federal appeals court opinion from August 2013, in which three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit wrote that Santos’ arrest was unconstitutional because there was no probable cause to suspect that she was engaged in criminal activity, and knowledge that someone is the subject of a civil deportation warrant does not establish probable cause for an arrest.
Santos’ attorneys must file the amended complaint by Sept. 25.