E-Alerts & Press Releases

PJC Brief Leads to Settlement for Immigrant Worker

In the case of Campbell v. Bolourian, Cynthia Campbell is an immigrant worker who was legally authorized to work as a live-in domestic employee for the Bolourians. Ms. Campbell sued the Bolourians for failing to pay her for work she performed. The Bolourians responded by demanding discovery concerning her immigration status after she left their employ, her present employers, and income tax filing information for the time period after she left their employ. Campbell’s attorneys, CASA of Maryland and Covington & Burling, sought a protective order, but the trial court ordered the discovery to proceed.  Ms. Campbell appealed to the Court of Special Appeals.
 
The PJC’s Appellate Director, Suzanne Sangree, wrote a friend of the court brief on behalf of the PJC, the ACLU of Maryland, the D.C. Employment Justice Center, the National Council of La Raza, the National Employment Law Project, the National Immigration Law Center, and Brown, Goldstein and Levy, LLP. The PJC’s brief alerted the court that in this case of first impression, the court should not permit employers to abuse discovery by inquiring into irrelevant matters of immigration status to intimidate documented and undocumented immigrant workers.  Allowing such intimidation would undermine the ability of immigrant workers in Maryland to enforce their right to be paid for work performed, and indeed to enforce their workplace rights more generally.
 
Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, noticed the case and decided to consider the case itself, rather than waiting for the intermediate appeal court to rule first. Oral argument before the Court of Appeals was scheduled for May 2006.
 
Suzanne Sangree then helped prepare the Covington & Burling attorney who would argue the case by arranging and participating in a moot court.  The day before trial, the defendants called with an offer to settle the case that satisfied Ms. Campbell’s demand to be paid for her work.  A note from Ms. Campbell’s counsel confirms that in this case, the amicus brief was a significant factor in causing Defendants to reconsider their case and settle.  The Covington & Burling attorney wrote: “I echo Suzanne's thanks to Amici and give thanks to Suzanne for all of her work on this matter -- especially coordinating the amicus brief and judging the mock argument (she's tough).  Amici's participation was a pillar of the planned-for oral argument . . . and was key to Defendants calling on the very eve of oral argument with favorable settlement terms.”
 
CASA of Maryland wrote that "The [amicus] brief is an exceptionally powerful and well-crafted piece of legal work, and I have no doubt that it helped the Court of Appeals decide to reach down and hear our appeal."
 
We are delighted for the client, but unfortunately, the settlement means that the Court of Appeals was not able to hear and decide this case, which means we did not achieve the goal of setting a legal precedent for others in this novel issue.  But the legal research and briefs are ready when the problem recurs!

« Back