A May 31 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that pretrial defendants can’t be routinely shackled in court doesn’t apply to Clark County Superior and District Court, a Clark County judge said Tuesday.
The 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco, has jurisdiction over federal courts in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and Nevada.
In the widely-reported ruling, a majority found that routine pretrial shackling used in courtrooms in the Southern District of California was a violation of a person’s Fifth Amendment right to be free of unwarranted restraints and that defendants should not be routinely shackled "like a bear on a chain."
The ruling said judges must determine, on a case-by-case basis, which defendants need to be shackled for security purposes and can’t just turn over the decision to officers who provide security in the courtroom.
In Clark County, Clark County Sheriff’s Office custody officers routinely use full restraints on defendants when they escort them from jail to court. As described in the 9th Circuit’s opinion, “full restraints” means “that a defendant’s hands are closely handcuffed together, these handcuffs are connected by chain to another chain running around the defendant’s waist, and the defendant’s feet are shackled and chained together.”
On June 12, defense attorney Jeff Barrar raised the “no-shackling” issue with Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman at the start of the afternoon docket. Zimmerman ordered custody officers to unshackle everyone. Custody officers then decided to bring inmates over from jail one at a time and the docket ran longer than normal.
By the next morning, Zimmerman changed his approach to the issue. One of our attorneys, Hannah McCausland, asked him about the shackling of defendants, and Zimmerman said he met with other judges and they decided that the ruling didn’t apply in Clark County.