Michael B. Chavies of the Akerman LLP law firm will serve as a special master to investigate the conditions of confinement at three Florida-area ICE detention facilities in response to allegations of insufficient Covid-19 safeguards pending in a federal court in that state
Chavies served as a Florida appeals court judge for 13 years and is currently based in Miami as a partner with Akerman, according to his firm biography, which also describes him as a top litigator in south Florida.
He’s slated to visit Krome Processing Center, Broward Transitional Center, and Glades County Detention Center before July 15 and prepare a report for Judge Marcie G. Cooke of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to be filed under seal.
His report should include factual information, photographs or video footage, and documentation as to whether U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is violating its detainees’ constitutional rights on an ongoing basis related to its coronavirus protections, the court said Sunday.
The court certified a class of 1,400 individuals detained at Krome, BTC, and Glades in early June.
The detainees allege that, despite the court’s previous orders, they’re being housed in “pods” of 20 to 60 individuals, and that they aren’t being kept separated based on positive Covid-19 test results or if they appear symptomatic, Cooke said on Sunday.
They also claim that ICE is transferring detainees in mixed groups not separated by tested and untested individuals.
The court said it has received hundreds of letters from other detainees housed at Krome, BTC, and Glades since issuing a preliminary injunction that ICE is allegedly ignoring.
The correspondence tends to not only corroborate the allegations of inadequate precautions, but also expand on “the grim conditions of their confinement as related to the coronavirus pandemic,” the court said.
However, ICE has filed declarations that appear to show that the agency is in full compliance with the court’s expectations, Cooke said.
Determining the actual state of affairs will take more time and resources than the court can provide on its own, hence the appointment of a special master for the fact-specific inquiry, it said.
Chavies will be compensated at a rate of $650 per hour for his services, with counsel for both sides sharing the costs equally, according to the order. His report is due by the end of the month, the court said.
King & Spalding LLP is class counsel. Prada Urizar PLLC, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the University of Miami School of Law Immigration Clinic, Americans for Immigrant Justice, and the Rapid Defense Network also represent the plaintiffs.
The Justice Department represents ICE.
The case is Gayle v. Meade, S.D. Fla., No. 20-cv-21553, 7/5/20.