Immigrant Detainee Class Status Needs Another Look

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By Perry Cooper

Sept. 22 — Foreign nationals who challenged their detention by the U.S. government will get another chance to seek class status even though they are no longer detained, the Third Circuit ruled Sept. 22 ( Gayle v. Warden , 2016 BL 312304, 3d Cir., No. 15-1785, 9/22/16 ).

The men were detained under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c), the section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that requires mandatory detention of “aliens who have committed specific crimes,” Judge Cheryl Ann Krause’s opinion said.

By the time the district court considered their motion for class certification, the men had already been released, making their individual claims moot. The court denied the motion, finding that certification was “unnecessary” because it had already entered injunctive relief on the plaintiffs’ individual claims.

Circuit Split on ‘Necessity.’

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated the judgment, finding that the district court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the individual’s cases after they were released.

The district court retained jurisdiction over the class certification motion, however, because even if a class representative’s individual claim is moot, it carries forward for the limited purpose of arguing a reviewable motion through to completion, the Third Circuit said.

The district court improperly relied on “necessity” in denying class certification, the appeals court said. There is a three-way split among the federal appeals courts on the role of “necessity,” but the Third Circuit has never ruled on it.

It sided with the First Circuit, holding that “necessity is not a freestanding requirement justifying denial of class certification.”

Necessity may be considered as it is relevant to the criteria for class certification under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, but the district court disregarded the Rule 23 criteria altogether, the Third Circuit held.

Judges Julio M. Fuentes and Jane Richards Roth joined the opinion.

Gibbons P.C. represented the plaintiffs.

To contact the reporter on this story: Perry Cooper in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at; Jeffrey D. Koelemay at

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