Court asked to extend stay of lawsuit dismissal • Dismissal order on garment workers’ complaint set to take effect on Sept. 8

Posted on Sep 02 1999

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the class action against Saipan garment companies yesterday asked the federal court to further stay its dismissal order, which is set to take effect next week.

Saipan attorney Timothy Skinner, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, requested the US District Court of the CNMI to stay the lawsuit’s dismissal until the Ninth Circuit Court rules on the plaintiff’s two motions –— one seeks the reversal of District Judge Alex Munson’s July 19 order, and the other seeks an expeditious ruling on this appeal.

Munson had dismissed the garment workers’ lawsuit saying the court wasn’t convinced the plaintiffs had sufficient grounds to support anonymous proceedings.

The 23 plaintiffs, identified only as Does I to XXIII, are employees of 22 garment companies.

The case was dismissed without prejudice, allowing lawyers for the plaintiffs to reinstate the complaint with substituted names.

Munson’s July 19 order originally provided for a 45-day stay of the dismissal order, but upon the plaintiffs’ motion, the judge had agreed to extend it to Sept. 8, the schedule for hearing of other related motions.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs don’t expect the Ninth Circuit to issue a decision by Sept. 8. They are worried that if the dismissal order takes effect by then, members of the class action would lose their claims altogether.

At least 170 garment workers have so far signed in for the class action, which charged garment companies with violations of local and federal labor laws, as well as violation of human rights.

Attorneys for the defendant companies owned by Tan Holdings, Inc., have opposed the plaintiffs’ bid for a stay of dismissal saying their appeal “does not raise serious, unsettled issues,” and that they “will suffer no hardships if the dismissal is not stayed.”

Skinner, however, maintained the plaintiffs need to keep their anonymity lest they face reprisal from the Chinese government.

Munson has said the plaintiffs failed to present evidence of threats and harassment.

But Skinner said, the plaintiffs, most of whom are from China, “legitimately fear retaliation against them or their families in China by recruiters or agents of the Chinese government.”

He added, “While the court may believe that it can protect plaintiffs from any wrongdoing, recent events indicate that the court’s ability to do so may be hampered by events beyond its control, including the inability of many plaintiffs (and perhaps the unwillingness of others) to notify plaintiffs’ counsel or the court when such threats are made, fearing that any complaint would merely trigger more retaliation.” (MCM)

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