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Case Name Chen v. GEO CJ-WA-0006
Docket / Court 3:17-cv-05769-RJB ( W.D. Wash. )
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Case Summary
On September 26, 2017, a former immigrant detainee of the Northwest Detention Center filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The case was assigned to Judge Robert J. Bryan. The plaintiff sued The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO), the for-profit corporation that ... read more >
On September 26, 2017, a former immigrant detainee of the Northwest Detention Center filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The case was assigned to Judge Robert J. Bryan. The plaintiff sued The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO), the for-profit corporation that operated the detention center, under state law, 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 plaintiff sought damages for lost wages.

On October 9, 2017, GEO filed a motion to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. GEO alleged that federal law, which allowed for immigrant detainees to be paid $1 per day, preempted 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 conflict with the MWA, so it did not preempt it. The MWA also stated only that state detainees were not employees; it said nothing about federal detainees, so the court reasoned that immigrant detainees may be employees. 287 F.Supp.3d 1158.

On December 20, 2017, the defendant served an answer to the complaint that contained several counterclaims and affirmative defenses. GEO claimed that the plaintiff would be unjustly enriched if paid minimum wage, as his costs of living during his detainment were paid for by the detention center, so it sought the costs and expenses it incurred in providing for the plaintiff during his detainment. It also sought declaratory relief. The plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss or strike most of the counterclaims and affirmative defenses on January 10, 2018. On February 28, 2018, the court denied most of the plaintiff's motion to dismiss, although it did strike five of the defendant’s fifteen affirmative defenses. 297 F.Supp.3d 1130.

On March 29, 2018, GEO filed another motion to dismiss the case, this one for failure to join required parties. GEO had a contract with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that controlled how it managed the detention center. 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. However, the defendant also alleged that DHS and ICE could not be joined because they had immunity. So, GEO concluded that the case should be dismissed. On April 26, 2018, the court denied this motion to dismiss and held that DHS and ICE were not necessary parties because the contract did not directly conflict with the MWA. 2018 WL 1963669.

The plaintiff sought class certification on March 23, 2018. The proposed class would consist of all civil immigration detainees who participated in the Voluntary Work Program at the Northwest Detention Center at any time between September 26, 2014, and the date of final judgment in the case. However, after being deposed by the defendant, the plaintiff decided that it was not in his best interests to serve as a class representative; in his deposition, the plaintiff admitted to having a history of violent crime, which could prejudice the rest of the class. On April 30, 2018, GEO filed a motion to deny class certification with prejudice, and the plaintiff withdrew his motion for class certification the next day.

On June 13, 2018, two new plaintiffs who could more adequately represent the class were added, and the original plaintiff was terminated as a plaintiff (but remained a counter defendant to GEO's counterclaims). The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint to reflect this change. Eight days later, they filed a new motion for class certification.

On June 27, 2018, GEO moved to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim, lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and failure to join parties.

As of July 2018, the case is ongoing. The plaintiffs' motion for class certification and GEO's motions to dismiss and to deny class certification are pending.

Rebecca Strauss - 07/20/2018


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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
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
State law
Defendant(s) The GEO Group, Inc.
Plaintiff Description A former immigrant detainee of the Northwest Detention Center who participated in the Voluntary Work Program and was paid $1 per day
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing CJ-WA-0005 : Washington v. GEO (W.D. Wash.)
Docket(s)
3:17-cv-05769-RJB (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/24/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint for Damages [ECF# 1]
CJ-WA-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/26/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Defendant The GEO Group, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Class Action Complaint for Damages [ECF# 28] (287 F.Supp.3d 1158) (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0006-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/06/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss or Strike Defendant's Counterclaims and Affirmative Defenses [ECF# 40] (2018 WL 1083852) (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0006-0003.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 [ECF# 67] (2018 WL 1963669) (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0006-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/26/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Bryan, Robert Jensen (W.D. Wash.)
CJ-WA-0006-0002 | CJ-WA-0006-0003 | CJ-WA-0006-0004 | CJ-WA-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Berger, Adam J. (Washington)
CJ-WA-0006-0001 | CJ-WA-0006-9000
Free, R. Andrew (Tennessee)
CJ-WA-0006-0001 | CJ-WA-0006-9000
Halm, Lindsay (Washington)
CJ-WA-0006-0001 | CJ-WA-0006-9000
Theriot-Orr, Devin T. (Washington)
CJ-WA-0006-0001 | CJ-WA-0006-9000
Whitehead, Jamal N. (Washington)
CJ-WA-0006-0001 | CJ-WA-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers D'Ambra, Andrea (New York)
CJ-WA-0006-9000
Deacon, Charles A (Texas)
CJ-WA-0006-9000
Emery, Mark Thomas (District of Columbia)
CJ-WA-0006-9000
Mell, Joan K. (Washington)
CJ-WA-0006-9000

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