University of Michigan Law School
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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 (WY)
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Immigration and/or the Border
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 plaintiff sued The GEO Group, Inc., the for-profit corporation that operated the Northwest Detention Center, claiming 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 plaintiff sued The GEO Group, Inc., the for-profit corporation that operated the Northwest Detention Center, claiming 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). The MWA set the minimum wage at $11 per hour. Represented by private counsel, 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 GEO alleged that federal law, which allowed for immigrant detainees to be paid $1 per day, superseded the MWA, a state law.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. 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.

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.

As of May 2018, this case is ongoing. As of January 19, 2018, the schedule indicates that discovery is set to be completed by September 17, 2018.

Rebecca Strauss - 05/24/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Conditions of confinement
Placement in detention facilities
Work release or work assignments
Immigration/Border
Detention - conditions
Detention - procedures
Employer sanctions
Employment
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
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing CJ-WA-0006 : Chen v. GEO (W.D. Wash.)
Docket(s)
3:17-cv-05806-RJB (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/27/2018
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]
Judges Bryan, Robert Jensen (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0005-0002 | CJ-WA-0005-0003 | CJ-WA-0005-0004 | CJ-WA-0005-0005 | CJ-WA-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Baker, La Rond (Washington)
CJ-WA-0005-0001 | CJ-WA-0005-9000
Brenneke, Andrea (Washington)
CJ-WA-0005-9000
Chien, Marsha (Washington)
CJ-WA-0005-0001 | CJ-WA-0005-9000
Ferguson, Robert W. (Washington)
CJ-WA-0005-0001
Defendant's Lawyers D'Ambra, Andrea (New York)
CJ-WA-0005-9000
Deacon, Charles A (Texas)
CJ-WA-0005-9000
Emery, Mark Thomas (District of Columbia)
CJ-WA-0005-9000
Mell, Joan K. (Washington)
CJ-WA-0005-9000

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