The regional jail board voted last Thursday to file a bar complaint against lawyers suing the jail, concerning the handling of “discovery” in that case.
Discovery is a pre-trial procedure in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the other party, according to Wikipedia.
The Oregon Law Center filed a lawsuit against Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility last July in Wasco County Circuit Court, on behalf of four Wasco County residents.
The suit alleges the jail is violating a 1987 state “sanctuary” law which bars the use of law enforcement resources to “detect or apprehend” people whose only offense is being in the country illegally.
An extensive June 18 court filing from the Law Center shows that attorneys for the jail said the jail improperly provided documents to the Law Center that it shouldn’t have, and that it asked for the records back.
The records are from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
At a deposition in May, the jail’s attorney said, “I think you folks probably have an ethical obligation to return those documents based upon the communications you’ve had, both from us and also from the federal government, so…”
To that, an attorney for the Oregon Law Center responded, “And we very clearly disagree with you and the federal government.”
The jail’s attorney then said, “We’ve tried to claw it back. You’ve been contacted in writing by the federal government and told that there’s a way for you to get these documents, if you want to, and you haven’t.”
In early June, the jail’s attorneys again wrote opposing counsel, saying, “It is our understanding that you continue to choose not to request the documents directly from their owner, ICE.”
It added that their refusal to destroy or return them raises “ethical concerns under Rule 4.4.”
That rule covers inadvertently sent documents, according to the Oregon State Bar.
While the lawsuit alleged the four Wasco County residents’ tax dollars were improperly used to “detect or apprehend” undocumented immigrants, the June 18 court filing also described several instances where detainees were held beyond their local charges at the request of ICE.
The jail recently settled a lawsuit, at the direction of its insurer, according to Jail Administrator Bryan Brandenburg, with a man who said he was held in jail for nearly 20 hours after he was supposed to be booked and released, so he could be turned over to ICE. He was paid $40,100.
The court filing also references a July 2017 staff meeting where staff were directed to “check all I-203s and make sure all detainees have some type of criminal history. If it has a n/c they are to be immediately refused.”
I-203s are ICE forms requesting someone be detained. N/C refers to “no charges.”
Last year, Brandenburg said the jail would not hold detainees who did not already have criminal charges.
Also in the court filing was a memo to jail staff from this past April, instructing them that the jail would no longer be placing ICE detainers for local inmates.
Instead, the memo said, “ICE will be notified of the date of release of inmates that have been sentenced and have a release date. If ICE is here at the time of release, ICE may arrest the subject in our lobby, otherwise the subject is free to go.”
David Henretty, an attorney for the Oregon Law Center, was asked to comment on the pending bar complaint and responded via email, “It would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time.”
As for the lawsuit itself, in court filings, the regional jail has argued it is neither detecting or apprehending detainees.
Last year the Oregon Attorney General’s office backed up the jail’s contention, saying, "it doesn't appear that NORCOR resources are being used to detect or arrest people."
An ACLU attorney disagreed, saying, “We think it’s a clear violation of state law for a local facility to house ICE detainees.” He said “apprehend” not only means arrest, but “detain.”
The suit contends the jail is in violation of state law through its ICE contract “which requires it to incarcerate individuals solely to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law.”
It argues the tax dollars of the four plaintiffs, Brian Stovall, John Olmstead, Connie Krummrich and Karen Brown, are wrongly being used to house detainees. It lists costs for detainees that are not paid by the federal government, such as in-jail medical care and capturing any detainees who escape.
The jail has housed immigration detainees almost since it opened 20 years ago. Currently, it houses around 20 at a time. Its housing of detainees was uncontroversial until the election of President Trump.