U.S. v. Sanchez-Gomez, 859 F.3d 649 (9th Cir. 2017)

In a split 9th Circuit court vote the majority Constitutionalizes a courtroom practice defined as “shackling” prisoners, and destined to affect all state and federal trial courts. The dissent is a written masterpiece rejecting the majority court decision of four men convicted several years ago. The court is ruling on: the absence of a “Case or Controversy” mandated by the Constitution; violation without precedent of the Fifth Amendment Clause; a series of adjectives describing the impaired dignity of everyone shackled; ignoring a presumption of innocence until a verdict;  the work of justice applies to everyone until convicted. In addition to a justifying a jurisdictional right to begin with an a case already concluded, the court invents mandamus as an alternative to appeal.

But these procedural controversies are not the heart of the case.  The majority outlines a legal history beginning with the common law and thendisagreement between the other Circuits. The issue: can ederal Marshals shackle all prisoners in non jury appearances before a judge or magistrate judge? For a variety of reasons, including inability to forecast violence by the prisoner, the configurement or location of the court, the lack of adequate staff to restrain escape or injury, and other factors. The court majority ignores all criticism of shackling and defines prisoners in criminal court as  presumed innocent men until found guilty, entitled to dignity in a courtroom, and judicial decorum. The dissent characterizes this language as ivory tower rationale.

Federal court Marshalls in non jury trials attempt to shackle every defendant but do lack staff in some cases. No federal statute exists to enforce shackling of all defendants in criminal trials, and inventing the procedural Constitutional decisions are absurd. Time for certiorari if the California Attorney General knows anything about Constitutional law.


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