The American Civil Liberties Union as well as several Catholic theologians, health care advocacy groups and women’s rights organizations have filed separate amicus briefs in support of Juana Villegas’ legal battle against Metro government.
“This is a case of shocking and deliberate indifference to the wholly obvious, serious medical needs of Juana Villegas and the child she was about to deliver,” the ACLU brief states.
Metro is appealing U.S. District Court Judge William Haynes’ April 2011 decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Villegas, the plaintiff, after the judge found her civil rights were violated when the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office shackled her legs as she went into labor.
The sheriff’s office processed Villegas, an undocumented Mexican mother of four, after a 2008 routine traffic stop in Berry Hill as part of the federal 287(g) deportation program, now entering its sixth year of implementation in Nashville.
A seven-member jury awarded Villegas $200,000 in damages last August.
In the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Metro attorneys have argued  Haynes has a “pattern of unjustified animosity toward Metro” based on his ruling in other cases.
Metro has also objected to Haynes’ decision to exclude testimony from two witnesses who opined that the shackling did not threaten Villegas’ health. Further, the city claims Haynes improperly excluded evidence regarding Villegas’ threatened deportation, which Metro claims was her real “source of depression and anxiety.”
Villegas’ attorneys responded in a brief last week that rejects arguments of Haynes’ alleged bias; claims other rulings support the unconstitutionality of shackling; and supports Haynes’ decision to exclude Villegas’ immigration status.
Oral arguments will likely commence later this year.
On Wednesday, four different constituencies filed amicus briefs to support Villegas’ case and the federal district court’s 2011 ruling. Collectively, the briefs identify more than 70 individuals who support Villegas.
In addition to the ACLU’s amicus brief are support from 10 Catholic theologians and one evangelical scholar from universities across the nation. “Catholic theology prizes human life from the moment of conception, which means that pregnant women in labor must be treated with special solicitude,” the amicus brief reads.
Support for Villegas, outlined in a third amicus brief, comes from health care advocacy groups such as the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, National Perinatal Association.
A fourth constituency comprised of women’s and human rights organizations –– including the National Women’s Law Center, the National Crittenton Foundation and the National Association of Women Lawyers –– have also offered its support of the judge’s original ruling.