Search Results for ‘Jamie Leigh Jones’

Stephanie Mencimer on “Hot Coffee” and the Jamie Leigh Jones case

Having been at times lacking in enthusiasm for the work of journalist Stephanie Mencimer, it’s only fair we credit her again with considerable courage for returning to the failed Jamie Leigh Jones case in a new article in Washington Monthly. (Jones alleged a brutal rape in Iraq for which her lawyers said employer Halliburton/Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) should have been held responsible; the case served as a springboard for numerous misleading attacks on pre-dispute arbitration). Following the evidence wherever it leads against the likely inclinations of many Washington Monthly readers, Mencimer leaves Jones’ credibility in tatters and the various liberal and trial-lawyer sources that ballyhooed her case — including Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and TV talker Rachel Maddow — looking highly gullible, to go with the kindest interpretation.

Most damning of all, as readers of posts in this space (especially those by Ted Frank) will recall, Jones was given center stage in Susan Saladoff’s film “Hot Coffee,” which periodically airs on HBO and on college campuses and has established itself as one of the litigation industry’s most durable and successful propaganda vehicles. All future discussion of “Hot Coffee” — and certainly any cable/broadcast airings or public screenings whose sponsors care about accuracy and fairness — will need to warn audiences that the Jones case can now be seen in retrospect as almost unrecognizably different from the picture of it presented in that trial-lawyer-produced “documentary.” If this is what becomes of one of Saladoff’s central cases, how reliable ought we to consider the rest of her film?

Jamie Leigh Jones, Tracy Barker, & “Halliburton” IV

Bizarro-Overlawyered, the Huffington Post, Alternet, and others on the Left continue to bang this drum with completely false accounts of the law and facts in their campaign to deprive consumers of the choice of mandatory arbitration: “The notion that sexual assault cannot be tried as a criminal matter but has to be arbitrated in secret arbitration and treated as a labor dispute is simply beyond belief.”

Beyond belief indeed. Let’s count the lies of commission and omission:

  • Whether a private civil claim against Halliburton or KBR is required to be arbitrated has nothing to do with whether the Department of Justice decides to criminally prosecute for sexual assault. The DOJ can try this as a criminal matter, but have chosen not to. That may be a scandal on its own, but not one having to do with arbitration clauses.
  • The arbitration clause does not prohibit Barker from bringing civil suit against her alleged rapist (and, indeed, her case continues in the proper federal district court venue).
  • The arbitration clause does not require the arbitration to be “secret.” (By the way, in December, I wrote to Jamie Leigh Jones’s attorney, Todd Kelly, and offered to publicize his arbitration briefs documenting Jones’s original summary judgment claims before he tried a second bite at the apple in court. Still no response over six weeks later.) The arbitration is only as secret as the participants want it to be.
  • And, oh, by the way, for all the claims that one can’t get justice in arbitration? Today the New York Times reports that two women who claimed sexual assault, Mary Beth Kineston and Pamela Jones, won their arbitration cases against KBR. If they’d brought civil suits, they’d still be litigating. Yet somehow, not once in all the months of controversy on the issue did any news reporter mention this non-trivial fact as the slurs against arbitration were repeated over and over.

Let’s not confuse issues. Sexual assault and rape are criminal acts, and should be prosecuted criminally. To the extent KBR was responsible for the very plausible allegations of creating an environment of sexual harassment by its employees and failing to respond to hostile environment claims, they should be civilly liable in the forum contractually agreed to. But either of these issues has nothing to do with the third issue, the availability of mandatory arbitration as an option in contracts.

Earlier: Jamie Leigh Jones (Dec. 12-16), Jamie Leigh Jones (Dec. 20), Jamie Leigh Jones (Dec. 21); see also Overlawyered’s arbitration section.

Jamie Leigh Jones & “Halliburton” III

Stephanie Mencimer jumps on the Jamie Leigh Jones bandwagon against arbitration (Dec. 12, Dec. 20) and carefully makes a misleading case:

Employment lawyer Cathy Ventrell-Monsees testified before Congress in October that AAA data show that between January 2003 and March 31, 2007, of the 39 Halliburton cases that went all the way to a decision, Halliburton won 32, a win rate of 82 percent. Plaintiffs in employment litigation face a high bar in court trials as well, but even so, that figure is very high. Employers win about 64 percent of all employment cases at trial in federal court and about half in state court, according to data from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

The problem here is that this is apples and oranges: the 32 arbitration cases include cases that are dismissed on summary judgment, whereas the employment discrimination trials (which constitute well under 10% of all employment discrimination claims brought in court) necessarily omit the decisions where the plaintiffs lost on summary judgment. Moreover, it excludes the 96% of cases submitted to ADR that do not result in a full-fledged arbitration because the employee received a favorable result in mediation. (And that’s before we get to the fact that an arbitration decision is final, while the BJS statistics have no follow-up to see what happens on appeal to those larger plaintiff victories.) As multiple studies show, the typical employment plaintiff does far better in arbitration than in court, for far less expense.

Mencimer also repeats the canard that arbitration is problematic because it is “secretive,” though her ability to retell the case of Jamie Jones refutes that. I also note that earlier this week, I sent a request to Jones’s attorney, Todd Kelly, for a copy of her arbitration filings. (Recall that Jones moved for summary judgment in the arbitration, and only filed in court after helping to choose an arbitrator and spending fifteen months of discovery litigating the arbitration.) He hasn’t responded. If Jones’s arbitration is secret, it’s because she has chosen to make it so.

Jamie Leigh Jones hearing on the Hill

As I suspected, the Jamie Leigh Jones testimony on the Hill quickly devolved away from the Department of Justice’s alleged failures in investigating a rape (the ostensible reason for the hearing) to the completely unrelated issue of her arbitration agreement with KBR and her attempt to conflate KBR with Halliburton, something welcomed by the litigation-lobby blogs that did the same thing. (KBR wasn’t invited to send a representative to the hearing.) Jones misrepresented the arbitration as “secret,” though the arbitration proceeding is just as public as a court proceeding to the extent either party wishes it to be. To that end, I invite Ms. Jones to send me the summary judgment briefs from her pending arbitration proceeding against KBR that led her attorneys to file a second action in court making new allegations against Halliburton, and I will happily post them and provide free publicity analyzing them. From the KBR briefs:

Jones has admitted that she is a party to an arbitration agreement and has invoked and
benefited from the terms of the DRP by participating in a pending arbitration proceeding
involving the same claims. She made a demand for arbitration more than a year before filing this lawsuit, participated in the selection of an arbitrator, exchanged discovery and even moved for summary judgment.

For more on arbitration, see Mark de Bernardo’s testimony and Overlawyered’s arbitration section.

“Halliburton”, gang rape, and fear of arbitration: the Jamie Leigh Jones case

(Update, December 16: And welcome, Consumerist readers. For more on the anti-consumer campaign against arbitration, see the Overlawyered arbitration section. Consumerist’s headline “Mandatory Binding Arbitration Means Alleged Halliburton Rapists Could Go Free” is entirely false. Aside from the fact that it does not appear the alleged rapists worked for Halliburton, the issue of whether Jones is contractually obligated to arbitrate her employment dispute with her employer is entirely unrelated to whether the government underinvestigated a criminal complaint against rapists. They are two entirely separate issues. It’s not the first time that Consumerist has reprinted misleading arguments against arbitration—a shame, because mandatory binding arbitration helps consumers, and Consumerist should care more about consumers than the trial lawyers who are lobbying for an anti-consumer law.)

In February 2006, Jamie Leigh Jones filed an arbitration complaint, complaining that, for her administrative assistant job with KBR in the Iraq Green Zone, she was placed in an all-male dorm for living arrangements, and a co-worker sexually assaulted her. (KBR says the co-worker claimed the sex was consensual, though Jones claims physical injuries, such as burst breast implants and torn pectoral muscles, that are plainly not consistent with consensual sex. The EEOC’s Letter of Determination credited the allegation of sexual assault.)

Fifteen months later, after extensive discovery in the arbitration, Jones, who lives in Houston, and whose lawyer is based in Houston, and who worked for KBR in Houston, sued KBR and a bunch of other entities (including Halliburton, for whom she never worked, and the United States), in federal court in Beaumont, Texas. The claims were suddenly of much more outrageous conduct: the original allegation of a single he-said/she-said sexual assault was now an allegation of gang rape by several unknown John Doe rapists who worked as firemen (though she did make a claim of multiple rape to the EEOC, though it is unclear when that claim was made); she claims that after she reported the rape, “Halliburton locked her in a container” (the EEOC found that KBR provided immediate medical treatment and safety and shipped her home immediately) and she threw in an allegation that a “sexual favor” she provided a supervisor in Houston was the result of improper “influence.” (But she no longer makes the implausible claim that she was living in an all-male dorm in Iraq.)

The US got the claim dismissed quickly (Jones hasn’t yet followed the appropriate administrative claims procedure); the case was transferred back to Houston where it belonged (the trial lawyer’s ludicrous brief in opposition didn’t help). But the fact that the defendants are pointing out that the lawsuit over a pending arbitration violates 28 U.S.C. § 1927 and are asking for the court to mandate only one single proceeding in arbitration rather than a multiplicity of parallel proceedings, is now being treated as a cause célèbre by the left-wing blogosphere in its campaign against the contractual freedom to arbitrate. (Note that two elements explicitly designed to arouse the ire and inflame the passions of the left—Halliburton and gang-rape—only came about after Jones switched attorneys.)

The Public Citizen blog complains that “the allegations of corporate and governmental misconduct will never see the light of day” in arbitration. Which is absurd:

1) For crying out loud, her case is on 20/20, which, as is its ken, happily unquestioningly gives the plaintiffs’ opening statement in handy manipulative video newsertainment form without mentioning any of the counterevidence. That sort of widespread publicity is hardly the lack of “light of day.” (Update, Dec. 15: the KBR arbitration procedure provides a transcript without confidentiality restrictions, permitting exactly the same publicity as an open court proceeding.)
2) If the government fails to offer Jones an adequate settlement for their alleged bungling of the criminal investigation, she has recourse under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the federal government—though she likely will not have any more recourse against them than any other criminal victim does when the government fails to protect them against crime or prosecute the criminal.
3) If the court system is about having recourse for injuries, she has that recourse. The judicial system is not for public storytelling; if you want to send a message, use Western Union (or ABC News, as the case may be).

20/20 repeats the meaningless claim that “In recent testimony before Congress, employment lawyer Cathy Ventrell-Monsees said that Halliburton won more than 80 percent of arbitration proceedings brought against it”—meaningless because (1) it doesn’t include the cases that settle before arbitration with a favorable result to the employee and (2) there’s no comparison with how well such employees would do in the far more expensive forum of litigation (where the vast majority of employees lose at trial as well). (Update, Dec. 16: KBR (which is not Halliburton) says that 96% of employee claims settle before they get to an arbitrator.)

20/20 also adds the claim (absent in the arbitration and in the otherwise-lurid civil complaint) that Jones was threatened that she would be fired if she sought medical treatment.

Read On…

“Indie documentaries,” or lawsuit Astroturf?

Glenn Garvin at the Miami Herald has spotted a trend on the film festival circuit. Among the questions he raises: why was the New York Times so oddly unskeptical about the Chevron-bashing opus Crude? And why was such widespread credulity accorded to the showcasing of Jamie Leigh Jones’s lawsuit in Susan Saladoff’s Hot Coffee? More: Jim Dedman, Abnormal Use.

The “Halliburton rape” case: setting the record straight

Remember the “Halliburton rape” case, where the national media uncritically passed along claims that a young woman had been viciously assaulted by co-workers while stationed in the Middle East, then confined to a container by beastly managers when she tried to complain, and finally suffered the ultimate indignity when her employment contract required her to submit the claims to arbitration? It’s a tale that was advanced by politicians like Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), by some of the usual suspects in opinion journalism, and especially by the litigation lobby as part of its campaign against contractually provided-for arbitration (as with the much-reviewed, HBO-aired “Hot Coffee“). Not a few of these advocates — like the left-leaning ThinkProgress — threw “allegedly” to the winds and flatly accused the co-workers of rape.

Unless you’d read one of the very few skeptical evaluations of the case — many of them written by Ted Frank — you may have been shocked this July when a Houston jury summarily rejected Jamie Leigh Jones’s lawsuit. Now — better late than never — the Houston Chronicle shreds the popular narrative of the affair and its media coverage in particular (ABC News: a tale of “sexual brutality, corporate indifference and government inaction.”) Is it too much to hope that anyone will be embarrassed enough to apologize?

More: As commenter E-Bell notes, journalist Stephanie Mencimer, with whom we’ve had our differences in the past, deserves due credit for this July coverage in the unlikely venue of Mother Jones. And quoth @Popehat: “‘Putting the victim on trial’ is code for ‘defending yourself and testing the evidence.'”

July 29 roundup

  • Don’t: “Lawyer Disbarred for Verbal Aggression to Pay $9.8M Fine for Hiding Cash Overseas” [Weiss, ABA Journal]
  • Loser-pays might help: “Dropped malpractice lawsuits cost legal system time and money” [Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe]
  • “Kim Kardashian and the Problem With ‘Celebrity Likeness’ Lawsuits” [Atlantic Wire]
  • Kim Strassel on the Franken-spun Jamie Leigh Jones case [WSJ]
  • Peggy Little interviews Prof. Lester Brickman (Lawyer Barons) on new Federalist Society podcast;
  • Worse than Wisconsin? “Weaponizing” recusal at the Michigan Supreme Court [Jeff Hadden, Detroit News]
  • New York legislature requires warning labels for sippy cups [NYDN]

July 10 roundup

  • Jury rejects Jamie Leigh Jones rape claim against Halliburton/KBR. Next, a round of apologies from naive commentators and some who used the case to advance anti-arbitration talking points? [WSJ; Ted Frank/PoL and more; WSJ Law Blog (plaintiff’s lawyers sought shoot-the-moon damages)]
  • Time magazine vs. James Madison on constitutional law (spoiler: Madison wins) [Foster Friess via Ira Stoll]
  • Andrew Trask reviews new Curtis Wilkie book on the Dickie Scruggs scandal;
  • “Right to family life” evolution in human rights law deters UK authorities from deporting various bad actors [Telegraph]
  • Paging Benjamin Barton: How discovery rules enrich the legal profession at the expense of the social good [PoL]
  • USDA heeds politics, not science, on genetic crops [Henry Miller/Gregory Conko, PDF, Cato Institute Regulation]
  • “Legal Questions Raised by Success of Monkey Photographer” [Lowering the Bar]