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Case Name Washington v. GEO CJ-WA-0005
Docket / Court 3:17-cv-05806-RJB ( W.D. Wash. )
Additional Docket(s) 17-2-11422-2  [ 17-11422 ]  Trial Court (WA)
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection Immigrant Detention Labor Issues
Case Summary
The state of Washington filed this lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of Washington for Pierce County on September 20, 2017. The state sued The GEO Group, Inc., the for-profit corporation that operated the Northwest Detention Center. It claimed that GEO’s policy of paying immigrant ... read more >
The state of Washington filed this lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of Washington for Pierce County on September 20, 2017. The state sued The GEO Group, Inc., the for-profit corporation that operated the Northwest Detention Center. It claimed that GEO’s policy of paying immigrant detainees involved in the federal Voluntary Work Program only $1 per day for their labor violated the Washington Minimum Wage Act (MWA), which set the minimum wage at $11 per hour. The state sought injunctive and declaratory relief. On October 9, 2017, the defendant removed this case to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The case was assigned to Judge Robert J. Bryan.

On October 16, 2017, GEO moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. GEO alleged that federal law, which allowed for immigrant detainees to be paid $1 per day, superseded the MWA, a state law. The defendant also alleged that immigrant detainees did not count as employees under the MWA. On December 6, 2017, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss. 283 F. Supp. 3d 967 (W.D. Wash. 2017). The court reasoned that federal law did not necessarily conflict with the MWA, so it might not preempt it. The court also reasoned that immigrant detainees may be employees under the MWA because the statute stated only that state detainees were not employees; it said nothing about federal detainees.

On December 20, 2017, the defendant answered the state’s complaint with several counterclaims and affirmative defenses. GEO claimed that the state would be unjustly enriched if detainees were paid minimum wage, as detainees’ costs of living were paid for by the detention center. So, in the event of any award to the plaintiff, GEO sought an offset for services that it provided to detainees. It also sought declaratory and injunctive relief. Washington filed a motion to dismiss or strike most of the counterclaims and affirmative defenses on January 10, 2018. On February 28, 2018, the court granted the motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part. The court dismissed the defendant’s unjust enrichment claim and struck several of its affirmative defenses. The court did not dismiss the defendant’s claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. 2018 WL 1083826

On March 20, 2018, GEO filed a motion to either dismiss the case for failure to join required government parties or, alternatively, to join those government parties. GEO had a contract with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a subagency within DHS, that controlled how it managed the detention center, and it alleged that paying minimum wage when the standard for ICE’s Voluntary Work Program was $1 per day would violate that contract. Because they had a stake in the case’s outcome, GEO alleged that DHS and ICE needed to be joined as parties. On April 26, 2018, the court denied this motion in its entirety and held that DHS and ICE were not necessary parties because the contract did not directly conflict with the MWA. The court also reasoned that DHS and ICE were not interested in getting involved in the case, which they must have known about because GEO was contractually obligated to have informed them of the litigation. 2018 WL 1963792

On November 8, 2018, GEO filed a motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's first cause of action, arguing that the application of the MWA to the operation of a federal detention facility was forbidden by the Supremacy Clause's intergovernmental immunity doctrine. On December 10, 2018, Judge Bryan denied summary judgment because the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity does not shield GEO from application of the MWA. 2018 WL 6448778

On May 13, 2019, Judge Bryan granted partial summary judgment, dismissing GEO's affirmative defenses of laches, unclean hands, and failure to join necessary parties. 2019 WL 2084463

On July 2, 2019, GEO filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing it should have derivative sovereign immunity, since the federal government directed GEO to only pay detainees $1/day. That same day, the state filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the MWA claim and GEO's preemption defense. On August, 6, 2019, Judge Bryan entered an order denying GEO's motion and granting the plaintiff's motion only as to the preemption defense. 2019 WL 3565105

On January 21, 2020, Judge Bryan set a jury trial date for April 13, 2020 and as of March 29, 2020, the case is still ongoing.

Rebecca Strauss - 05/24/2018
Caitlin Kierum - 03/29/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Conditions of confinement
Work release or work assignments
Detention - conditions
Detention - procedures
Employer sanctions
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Non-government for profit
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
State law
Defendant(s) The GEO Group, Inc.
Plaintiff Description The state of Washington
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 09/20/2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing CJ-WA-0006 : Chen v. GEO (W.D. Wash.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
3:17-cv-05806-RJB (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 12]
CJ-WA-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/17/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on GEO's Motion to Dismiss Complaint [ECF# 29] (283 F.Supp.3d 967) (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0005-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/06/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Without Prejudice Plaintiff State of Washington's Motion to Remand [ECF# 32] (2017 WL 6351831) (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0005-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/13/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on State's Motion to Dismiss or Strike Defendant's Counterclaims and Affirmative Defenses [ECF# 44] (2018 WL 1083826) (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0005-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/28/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Defendant the GEO Group Inc.'s Motion for Order of Dismissal Based on Plaintiff's Failure to Join Required Government Parties, or, Alternatively, to Add Required Government Parties [ECF# 58] (2018 WL 1963792) (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0005-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/26/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Defendant the GEO Group, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's First Cause of Action [ECF# 162] (2018 WL 6448778) (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0005-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/10/2018
Source: Westlaw
Order on Washington's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the GEO Group, INC's Affirmative Defenses [ECF# 202] (2019 WL 2084463) (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0005-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/13/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Motion for Reconsideration [ECF# 211] (2019 WL 2224932) (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0005-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/23/2019
Source: Westlaw
Order on Cross Motions for Summary Judgment [ECF# 288] (2019 WL 3565105) (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0005-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/06/2019
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Bryan, Robert Jensen (W.D. Wash.) show/hide docs
CJ-WA-0005-0002 | CJ-WA-0005-0003 | CJ-WA-0005-0004 | CJ-WA-0005-0005 | CJ-WA-0005-0006 | CJ-WA-0005-0007 | CJ-WA-0005-0008 | CJ-WA-0005-0009 | CJ-WA-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Baker, La Rond (Washington) show/hide docs
CJ-WA-0005-0001 | CJ-WA-0005-9000
Brenneke, Andrea (Washington) show/hide docs
Chien, Marsha (Washington) show/hide docs
CJ-WA-0005-0001 | CJ-WA-0005-9000
Ferguson, Robert W. (Washington) show/hide docs
Marquez, Patricio (Washington) show/hide docs
Mentzer, Eric (Washington) show/hide docs
Polozola, Lane (Washington) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Angel, Allison N (Colorado) show/hide docs
Armstrong, Shannon L (Oregon) show/hide docs
Asai, Kristin Mariko (Oregon) show/hide docs
Barnacle, Colin L (Colorado) show/hide docs
Calhoun, Ashley E (Colorado) show/hide docs
D'Ambra, Andrea (New York) show/hide docs
Deacon, Charles A (Texas) show/hide docs
Donohue, John M (Oregon) show/hide docs
Eby, Christopher J (Colorado) show/hide docs
Ellison, Dawn A (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Emery, Mark Thomas (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Kim, William J (Washington) show/hide docs
Mell, Joan K. (Washington) show/hide docs
Scheffey, Adrienne (Colorado) show/hide docs
Schipma, Scott A (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Short, Carolyn P. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Smith, Douglas Edward (Washington) show/hide docs
Stouck, Jerry (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Antkowiak, Thomas (Washington) show/hide docs
Benson, Ann E. (Washington) show/hide docs
Davis, Antoinette Marie (Washington) show/hide docs
Ford, Elizabeth G. (Washington) show/hide docs
Kratz, Amy (Washington) show/hide docs
Lee, Melissa R (Washington) show/hide docs
Lynch, Christopher M (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Vasquez, J. Dino (Washington) show/hide docs

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