Owino v. Corecivic, Inc., Case No.: 17-CV-1112 JLS (NLS)

Decision Date14 May 2018
Docket NumberCase No.: 17-CV-1112 JLS (NLS)
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of California
PartiesSYLVESTER OWINO and JONATHAN GOMEZ, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. CORECIVIC, INC., a Maryland corporation, Defendant.


Presently before the Court is Defendant CoreCivic, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Complaint, ("MTD," ECF No. 18). Also before the Court is Plaintiffs Sylvester Owino and Jonathan Gomez's Response in Opposition to the Motion, ("Opp'n," ECF No. 22), and Defendant's Reply in Support of, ("Reply," ECF No. 26), the Motion. The Court vacated the hearing on the Motion and took it under submission pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). (ECF No. 25.) After the Court vacated the hearing, Plaintiffs filed two Requests for Judicial Notice, ("First RJN," ECF No. 27; "Second RJN," ECF No. 32), to which Defendant filed a Response, ("RJN Response," ECF No. 36). Then, the Court stayed the current proceedings and deferred ruling on Defendant's Motion, (ECF No. 33), for the purpose of addressing a motion to consolidate in a related case, Gonzalez et al. v. CoreCivic, Inc., (No. 17-CV-2573 JLS (NLS)). The Court ruled on the related matter and now LIFTS the stay in these proceedings. After considering the Parties' arguments and the law, the Court rules as follows.


Plaintiffs are former civil immigration detainees who were incarcerated at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, which is owned and operated by Defendant. ("Compl.," ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 10-11.) Plaintiffs allege while at Otay Mesa, they and other detainees performed a variety of tasks for Defendant ranging from "scrubb[ing] bathrooms, showers, toilets, and windows" to "provid[ing] barber services to detainees" to "perform[ing] clerical work for CoreCivic." (Id. ¶ 14.) In return for those services, detainees were paid $1.00 per day, which Plaintiffs refer to as "Dollar-A-Day Work." (Id. ¶ 15.) Detainees could only spend their earnings at Defendant's "company store" or commissary. (Id.)

Plaintiffs also allege that Defendant forced Plaintiffs and other detainees "to clean, maintain, scrub, sweep, and mop floors, bathrooms, showers, toilets, and windows for no pay at all." (Id. ¶ 16.) Defendant allegedly threatened to punish Plaintiffs and other detainees who refused to work by means of "confinement, physical restraint, substantial and sustained restriction, deprivation, and violation of their liberty, and solitary confinement." (Id.)

Plaintiffs seek to certify three subclasses. Two of those subclasses would include all detainees who performed uncompensated work for Defendant, both nationally—the "Nationwide Forced Labor Class"—and in California—the "California Forced Labor Class." (Id. ¶ 30.) The third subclass would include all detainees who performed work for Defendant and were paid one dollar per day—the "California Labor Law Class." (Id.) Plaintiffs bring twelve claims, which can be divided as follows. First, Plaintiffs allege violations of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act ("TVPA"), 18 U.S.C. § 1589, et seq., and the California Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 52.5. (See Compl. ¶¶ 40-62.) Next, Plaintiffs allege violations of numerous sections of the California Labor Code. (See id. ¶¶ 71-101.) Finally, Plaintiffs bring a negligence claim, (id. ¶¶ 102-19), a claim for violation of California's Unfair Competition Law ("UCL"), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq., and an unjust enrichment claim, (id. ¶¶ 120-28).


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a party to raise by motion the defense that the complaint "fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted," generally referred to as a motion to dismiss. The Court evaluates whether a complaint states a cognizable legal theory and sufficient facts in light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Although Rule 8 "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' . . . it [does] demand more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In other words, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). A complaint will not suffice "if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

In order to survive a motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A claim is facially plausible when the facts pled "allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). That is not to say that the claim must be probable, but there must be "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. Facts "'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability" fall short of a plausible entitlement to relief. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, the Court need not accept as true "legal conclusions" contained in the complaint. Id. This review requires context-specific analysis involving the Court's "judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 678 (citation omitted)."[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged—but it has not 'show[n]''that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id.


The Court's analysis proceeds as follows. First, the Court briefly analyzes the judicial notice requests. Second, the Court discusses Plaintiffs' forced labor claims arising from alleged violations of the federal and California TVPA. These claims coincide with Plaintiffs' putative state and nationwide forced labor classes. Third, the Court addresses Plaintiffs' "Dollar-A-Day" claims arising from alleged violations of the California Labor Code. These claims coincide with Plaintiffs' putative California labor law class. Fourth, the Court analyzes Plaintiffs' derivative claims.

I. Request for Judicial Notice

Plaintiffs request the Court judicially notice two documents. First, Plaintiffs submit an opinion from Chao Chen v. Geo Group, Inc., No. 17-cv-5769-RJB, 2017 WL 6034365 (W.D. Wash. Dec. 6, 2017). (First RJN.) Second, Plaintiffs request the Court notice the Tenth Circuit's opinion in Menocal v. GEO Group, Inc., 882 F.3d 905 (10th Cir. 2018). (Second RJN.)

Defendant opposes both Plaintiffs' requests because "it is inappropriate to request that the Court take judicial notice of legal authority." (RJN Response 21 (quoting Stiller v. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. 09-cv-2473-GPC-BGS, 2013 WL 4401371, at *1 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 15, 2013)).) The Court agrees with Defendant. It is well established that that courts may consider legal reasoning and conclusions of other federal courts without resort to Rule 201. See, e.g., Derum v. Saks & Co., 95 F. Supp. 3d 1221, 1224 (S.D. Cal. 2015) (citing McVey v. McVey, 26 F. Supp. 3d 980, 984-85 (C.D. Cal. 2014)). The opinions attached to Plaintiffs' requests are the legal reasoning and conclusion of other federal courts. While the Court will consider relevant legal authority in arriving at its conclusion, the CourtDENIES Plaintiffs' Requests for Judicial Notice, (ECF Nos. 27, 32).

II. Forced Labor Claims
A. Federal TVPA (First Cause of Action)

Plaintiffs allege Defendant violated the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1589(a).2 (Compl. ¶ 41.) Section 1595 creates a private cause of action for victims of a violation of the TVPA. 18 U.S.C. § 1595(a). Plaintiffs allege they and putative class members were forced to perform labor and services under force, threats, abuse, and other means. (Compl. ¶ 42.)

Defendant raises several challenges to the TVPA claim. First, Defendant argues that the TVPA does not extend to civil immigration detainees performing routine housekeeping tasks in lawful detention. (MTD 13.) Second, Defendant contends that Plaintiffs fail to plead sufficient facts to state a TVPA claim. (Id. at 18.) Third, Defendant argues that Congress amended the TVPA in 2008; therefore, at least some of Plaintiffs' claims are barred because the relevant portions of TVPA cannot be given retroactive effect. (Id. at 20.) Fourth, Defendant argues that a portion of Plaintiffs' claim are barred by the statute of limitations. (Id.) The Court addresses each argument in turn.

1. Whether the TVPA Extends to Civil Immigration Detainees

Defendant advances two arguments why the TVPA does not apply to civil immigration detainees. First, Congress did not intend for the statute to apply toDefendant's conduct. Second, the Thirteenth Amendment, which provides Congress's authority to create the TVPA, has a "civic duty exception" that Defendant contends exempts its conduct from the TVPA.

a. Statutory Interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 1589

Defendant argues that Congress's purpose in enacting the TVPA, including section 1589, was to "combat trafficking in persons." (Id. at 13 (quoting Pub. L. No. 106-386, § 102(a), 114 Stat. 1464, 1466 (2000)).) The congressional findings all focused on the evils of trafficking in persons. (Id.) For example, Congress found:

As the 21st century begins, the degrading institution of slavery continues throughout the world. Trafficking in persons is a modern form of slavery, and it is the largest manifestation of slavery today. At least 700,000 persons annually, primarily

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