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State v. The GEO Group Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

May 13, 2019

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
THE GEO GROUP, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER ON WASHINGTON'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE GEO GROUP, INC'S AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES

          ROBERT J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the GEO Group Inc.'s (“GEO”) Affirmative Defenses (Dkt. 183) and GEO's motion to defer or strike the State's motion for summary judgment pursuant Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (d) (Dkt. 188). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motions and the file herein.

         This case arises out of GEO's alleged failure to compensate immigration detainees at the Northwest Detention Center (“NDC”), a private detention center, in accord with the Washington Minimum Wage Act (“MWA”). Dkt. 1. The State now moves for summary judgment dismissal of GEO's affirmative defenses of laches, unclean hands, and failure to join necessary parties (the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (collectively “ICE”) and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (“L & I”)). Dkt. 183. GEO moves for a delay in the motion for summary judgment's consideration to complete discovery. Dkt. 188. For the reasons provided below, GEO's motion to delay consideration of the motion (Dkt. 188) should be denied, and the State's motion (Dkt. 183) should be granted. GEO's affirmative defenses of laches, unclean hands, and failure to join necessary parties, should be dismissed.

         I. RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A. FACTS

         GEO is a private corporation that has owned and operated the NWDC, a 1, 575-bed detention facility in Tacoma, Washington, since 2005. Dkt. 156, at 8-9. GEO operates the NWDC based on a contract with ICE. Dkts. 16-2, and 19. Under this contract, GEO provides “detention management services including the facility, detention officers, management personnel, supervision, manpower, training certifications, licenses . . . equipment, and supplies” for immigration detainees awaiting resolution of immigration matters. Dkt. 19, at 49. GEO is also required by the contract to manage a Voluntary Work Program (“VWP”). Dkt. 19, at 86. Detainees who participate in the VWP collect and distribute laundry, prepare and serve food, clean, paint interior walls, and use electric sheers to cut hair. Dkt. 184-1, at 8-19. GEO pays detainees who participate in the VWP at $1 per day. Dkt. 156, at 10. In accord with the contract with ICE, GEO agreed to comply with “[a]pplicable federal, state and local labor laws and codes.” Dkt. 19, at 48.

         B. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On September 20, 2017, the State filed this case in Pierce County, Washington Superior Court. Dkt. 1-1. The Complaint maintains that the GEO-ICE Contract at least allows for, if not requires, GEO to compensate detainees working in the VWP commensurate with the State MWA. Id., at ¶¶3.3, 3.4, 5.1-6.6. The State alleges that GEO has been unjustly enriched by compensating detainees below that required by state law. Id. In its “quasi-sovereign interest, ” the State makes a claim against GEO for unjust enrichment, and seeks: (1) an order requiring GEO to disgorge its unjust enrichment from compensating detainees below the minimum wage, (2) declaratory relief that GEO is an “employer” subject to the MWA when managing detainee employees, and (3) injunctive relief for GEO to be enjoined from paying detainees less than the minimum wage. Id.

         In its Answer, GEO makes a counterclaim for unjust enrichment, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, and asserts thirteen affirmative defenses. Dkt 34.

         On February 28, 2018, GEO's counterclaim for unjust enrichment was dismissed. Dkt. 44. Further, State's motion to strike the affirmative defenses of laches, unclean hands, failure to join L & I and ICE (all three of which are the subject of the present motion), and ripeness, justiciability, and a portion of the offset defense, was denied without prejudice; no finding was made as to the affirmative defense of preemption. Id. The remaining affirmative defenses were stricken. Id.

         On April 26, 2018, GEO's motion to dismiss for failure to join ICE was denied. Dkt. 58. The Order found that ICE was not a necessary or indispensable party to the case. Id. Complete relief could be accorded to the parties in the case and ICE did not have a legally protected interest. Id. GEO's alternative motion, that ICE be added as a defendant was also denied. Id.

         C. PENDING MOTIONS

         The State now moves for summary judgment on the affirmative defenses of laches, unclean hands, and failure to join ICE and L & I. Dkt. 183. GEO responds and moves, pursuant to Rule 56 (d), that the motion for summary judgment should either be denied, or its consideration deferred until the close of discovery. Dkt. 188. It argues that even if the motion is considered now, it should be denied because there are issues of fact as to the affirmative defense of laches, unclean hands and the failure to join ICE. Id. In reply, the State argues that the motion should be considered now, and that the motion should be granted. Dkt. 193.

         II. ...


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