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CA2 on Equitable Tolling: Watson v. USA (No Compensation for American Citizen Illegally Imprisoned by ICE)

August 02, 2017 (1 min read)

Watson v. USA, July 31, 2017 - "Davino Watson, a United States citizen, was improperly held in immigration detention for more than three years because the government mistakenly believed that he was a deportable alien. He sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Weinstein, J.), asserting four claims: (1) false imprisonment, (2) malicious prosecution, (3) negligent investigation into his citizenship status, and (4) negligent failure to issue a certificate of citizenship until years after his release. The district court found the government liable to Watson on the false imprisonment claim, dismissed the malicious prosecution claim and negligent investigation claim on motion, and entered judgment for the government on the negligent delay claim post-trial. We reverse the judgment with respect to the false imprisonment claim, which is time-barred. We affirm the judgment in all other respects. The malicious prosecution claim fails because the government did not act with malice, the negligent investigation claim fails for lack of a private analogue, and the negligent delay claim fails because Watson suffered no cognizable damages."

Chief Judge Katzmann, dissenting: "I do not find that, after a thorough bench trial and detailed findings of fact, the district court abused its direction in concluding that equitable tolling was warranted. I cannot agree with the inference that the conditions surrounding Watson’s wholly unjustified 1,273‐day detention were an “entirely common state of affairs.” Maj. Op. at 22 (quoting Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 396 (2007)). To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time this Circuit has ever reversed a district court’s decision to grant equitable tolling in such a fashion, and I simply do not think such a reversal is warranted in light of the circumstances of Watson’s detention. For the reasons that follow, I respectfully dissent as to these issues."