AG moves to dismiss four-year old lawsuit alleging civil rights violations
The Attorney General’s office has moved for the court to dismiss a four-year old lawsuit by a Filipino family naming the American Samoa government, immigration officers and police officers as the defendants, on allegations of failure to pay minimum wages, overtime, FICA and the local withholding tax, as well as false imprisonment, negligence, battery and civil rights violations.
The case has been taken off the High Court’s calendar.
The lawsuit was brought by Ruby Bartolome, Rhoderiza B. Amil and Melando Baguisi through their lawyer Mark Ude.
Prosecuting this matter are Assistant Attorney Generals Bensy Benjamin and Sarah Sayles. The lawsuit was scheduled to go on trial next week, however during a status hearing held earlier this week, Assistant AG Benjamin told the court the government was not aware of this matter and maybe that was why Mark Ude was not present in the court. A few minutes later Ude walked into the court noting he was not aware of this hearing.
Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond told the parties that he’ll take the trial off the calendar, saying the court has yet to rule on the pending motions of summary judgments that were filed by the government this month and last year.
The lawsuit was filed against JKL Inc, JLK Inc., Wilfredo Alamani, Lidavia Alamani, American Samoa Government, Attorney General Fepulea’I Arthur Ripley, Chief Immigration Officer Ufuti Ieremia, Immigration officers, Vaialega Jake Iakopo and Philo Maluia and Correction officers, Fofoa Asi and Siaosi Pona Laea. (Two other defendants named in this lawsuit are deceased).
According to the lawsuit filed, the three plaintiffs are all from the Republic of the Philippines and were employed at JKL Inc.and JLK Inc and the government through their employees, acted on behalf of the JKL Inc, and JLK Inc says the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs in their lawsuit noted that the corporations of JKL Inc. and JLK Inc failed to pay wages and the hours worked, from 2002 to 5 May 2008, Social Security taxes (FICA) to the IRS, ASG payroll withholding taxes; liquidated damages for willful failure to pay lawful wages while the plaintiffs were working for them.
The plaintiffs also claim they were arrested and were forcefully removed from the Tafuna Correctional facility against their will with no written document stating they were released to the custody of the immigration officers, however they were taken to the Airport.
GOVERNMENT SUMMARY OF JUDGEMENT
According to the summary of judgment filed by the government earlier this month, the plaintiffs were arrested and held in custody for having invalid immigration status.
“After being informed that the Plaintiffs had a pending civil action against their employer, Attorney General Fepulea’i Arthur Ripley, Jr. signed a release agreement stipulating that plaintiffs could leave Tafuna Correctional Facility, under the sponsorship of Tom Hardy pending the final determination of that civil action.
“Plaintiffs were then permitted to be released from custody and to remain in the territory.
“Ironically, when Immigration Officers arrived at TCF to release them, the plaintiffs refused and were then mistakenly taken to the airport, but were never placed on a plane and never left the territory.”
According to the summary of judgment, the Plaintiffs claim the government acted in cooperation with the plaintiff’s employer to discriminate and deport them in violation of their rights.
However, the government notes the plaintiffs sought legal permits from the government to remain in the territory, enjoinder of defendants from prohibiting plaintiffs from working, punitive damages and attorney’s fees and costs.
The government moves for the court to dismiss the lawsuit against the government citing lack of any facts to support plaintiffs assertions and lack of court jurisdiction.
For plaintiffs claim that ASG was acting as an agent for JLK/JKL Inc., and suggesting the government had the right to control the conduct of the company, the government notes this is ‘mere legal assertion’ and believes “it is beyond doubt the plaintiffs can prove no set of facts in support of this claim which would entitle him to relief.
For plaintiffs claim of negligence, the government again states this is mere legal assertion.
For plaintiffs seeking judgments through the court to restore the aliens’ permits to remain in the territory and to enjoinder the government from prohibiting aliens from working in the territory, the government says such actions are outside this Court’s jurisdiction.
The same holds true for plaintiffs request for judgment regarding their request for legal immigration status and permits to work within the territory, the government states — summary should be dismissed.