Esmor Correctional Services lawsuit (re immigration detention facility)

PrisonIn June 1997 a group of foreign nationals held at a detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Esmor Correctional Services (now known as Correctional Services Corporation).  The plaintiffs were political asylum seekers awaiting processing of their claims by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).  The plaintiffs alleged that they were tortured, beaten, harassed and otherwise mistreated by Esmor guards, subjected to inhumane living conditions and religious discrimination.  INS contracted with Esmor to operate its facility in Elizabeth.

In September 2003, Esmor filed a motion for summary judgment.  In November 2004 the court ruled that abuses committed in the United States against political asylum seekers could be prosecuted as human rights violations under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA).  This case was the first to apply international human rights standards to a US corporation for events that took place on US soil.  This 2004 ruling granted the defendants’ motion of summary judgment on some of the plaintiffs’ claims, but allowed the case to proceed on the ATCA claims, the New Jersey state law claims regarding negligent hiring, training, retention and supervision of Esmor security guards and claims of violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  During this time, many of the original plaintiffs settled their claims with the defendants.

In September 2007 the remaining plaintiffs’ claims went to trial.  The jury addressed the following claims: (i) violation of RFRA; (ii) ATCA claims; and (iii) negligent hiring, training, retention and supervision of Esmor security guards.  During the course of the trial, all but one of the remaining plaintiffs settled their claims with defendants.  In November 2007, the jury rejected the plaintiffs’ ATCA claim that their international human rights had been violated by Esmor, but the jury found that the company had been negligent in the hiring, training and supervision of its security guards and awarded $100,000.

- [PDF] “Victory in Jama lawsuit”, Rutgers Law School – Clinic News, Winter Edition 2008
- “Clinical Professor Penny Venetis to Argue for Jama Plaintiffs in Human Rights Trial Set to Begin on Sept. 26”, News Release, Rutgers, 2007
- “Detainee loses human rights case but wins damages”, Jeff Whelan, NJ Star-Ledger, 14 Nov 2007

US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit:
- Jama et al. v. Esmor Correctional Services, 12 Aug 2009

US District Court, District of New Jersey:
- Jama et al. v. Esmor Correctional Services, 23 Apr 2008
- Brown et al. v. Esmor Correctional Services; Jama et al. v. Esmor Correctional Services, Nov 2004 
- Jama et al. v. Esmor Correctional Services, 1 Oct 1998

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Lawsuit
18 February 2014

Esmor Correctional Services lawsuit (re immigration detention facility)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In June 1997 a group of foreign nationals held at a detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Esmor Correctional Services (now known as Correctional Services Corporation).  The plaintiffs were political asylum seekers awaiting processing of their claims by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).  The plaintiffs alleged that they were tortured, beaten, harassed and otherwise mistreated by Esmor guards, subjected to inhumane living conditions and religious discrimination.  INS contracted with Esmor to operate its facility in Elizabeth.

In September 2003, Esmor filed a motion for summary judgment.  In November 2004 the court ruled that abuses committed in the United States against political asylum seekers could be prosecuted as human rights violations under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA).  This case was the first to apply international human rights standards to a US corporation for events that took place on US soil.  This 2004 ruling granted the defendants’ motion of summary judgment on some of the plaintiffs’ claims, but allowed the case to proceed on the ATCA claims, the New Jersey state law claims regarding negligent hiring, training, retention and supervision of Esmor security guards and claims of violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  During this time, many of the original plaintiffs settled their claims with the defendants.

In September 2007 the remaining plaintiffs’ claims went to trial.  The jury addressed the following claims: (i) violation of RFRA; (ii) ATCA claims; and (iii) negligent hiring, training, retention and supervision of Esmor security guards.  During the course of the trial, all but one of the remaining plaintiffs settled their claims with defendants.  In November 2007, the jury rejected the plaintiffs’ ATCA claim that their international human rights had been violated by Esmor, but the jury found that the company had been negligent in the hiring, training and supervision of its security guards and awarded $100,000.

- [PDF] “Victory in Jama lawsuit”, Rutgers Law School – Clinic News, Winter Edition 2008
- “Clinical Professor Penny Venetis to Argue for Jama Plaintiffs in Human Rights Trial Set to Begin on Sept. 26”, News Release, Rutgers, 2007
- “Detainee loses human rights case but wins damages”, Jeff Whelan, NJ Star-Ledger, 14 Nov 2007

US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit:
- Jama et al. v. Esmor Correctional Services, 12 Aug 2009

US District Court, District of New Jersey:
- Jama et al. v. Esmor Correctional Services, 23 Apr 2008
- Brown et al. v. Esmor Correctional Services; Jama et al. v. Esmor Correctional Services, Nov 2004 
- Jama et al. v. Esmor Correctional Services, 1 Oct 1998

Article
29 October 2012

[PDF] Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin - Issue 7

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

[Full text of October 2012 issue of the Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin. Refers to lawsuits against adidas, Amesys (part of Bull), Anadarko, Anglo Platinum (part of Anglo American), Areva, Blackwater, BP, CACI, Cameron International, Chevron, Copper Mesa Mining, Curacao Drydock, DynCorp, Esmor Correctional Services (part of Correctional Services Corporation), Ford, Global Horizons, Halliburton, L-3, PA Child Care, Paladin, Shell, SNCF, Texaco (part of Chevron), Transocean.]

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Article
11 June 2009

A Win for Wiwa, a Win for Shell, a Win for Corporate Human Rights

Author: Michael Goldhaber, American Lawyer

Late Monday, on the eve of trial in New York, the parties settled in Wiwa v. Shell. For those with longer memories, it was reminiscent of March 2005, when another case hyped as the great breakthrough for corporate human rights, Doe v. Unocal, settled before trial on the merits…Absent a cathartic trial, can a winner be declared?...While the facts in dispute will never be settled, Wiwa has left its mark on law and legal culture -- and in this respect the movement for business human rights is the big winner. [also refers to Chevron, Curacao Drydock, Esmor Correctional Services, Drummond, Gap, Yahoo!]

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Article
26 September 2007

Rutgers Law Professor Penny Venetis to Argue for Jama Plaintiffs in Human Rights Trial Set to Begin on September 26

Author: Rutgers Newark Online [USA]

Penny Venetis, clinical professor of law at Rutgers School of Law–Newark...will present opening arguments today in the first case to apply international human rights standards to a U.S. corporation for events that took place on U.S. soil. Jama et al. v. Esmor Correctional Services, Inc. will be heard in Newark by Senior District Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey…. The plaintiffs…are nine political asylum seekers who, while awaiting processing of their asylum claims in an Elizabeth, NJ detention center run by Esmor, were subjected to horrific physical and psychological abuse.

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