International Human Rights and Peace Issues

In cooperation with leading attorneys in this field, we represented plaintiffs in Bowoto v. Chevron Texaco Corp., 312 F. Supp. 2d 1229 (2004), a federal case to establish corporate responsibility under the Alien Tort Claims Act, and in its companion state case for unfair business practices, including environmental and human rights abuses in Nigeria, but representative of Chevron’s tactics for oil production and development overseas. Mr. Sorgen spent several weeks in Nigeria’s delta as part of case preparation. Mr. Sorgen also did a “toxic tour” of the Amazon to view and discuss a pending lawsuit regarding Chevron Texaco’s degradation in Ecuador.

In Doe v. Liu, 349 F. Supp. 2d 1258 (2004), brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act and Torture Victims Protection Act, we obtained declaratory relief on claims against former Beijing Mayor Liu Qui for his role in the persecution and torture of Falun Gong practitioners.

In Samantar v. Yousuf, a high level Somalia governmental torturer unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court claiming sovereign immunity and later was ordered to pay substantial damages to former victims. Mr. Sorgen assisted in briefing and trial preparation.

Mr. Sorgen has also been involved in investigating human rights abuses against indigenous peoples in Guatemala, participated in establishing a foundation of shared values and writing parts of a new constitution for Nicaragua, advised governmental officials in Ecuador regarding rights and obligations under a treaty with the United States for a military base in Manta (since then abrogated), consulted with high level judges in Colombia regarding independent judiciary, separation of powers and civilian control of military in the context of the 60 year civil war in that country and participated in the world social forum in Porto Allegre, Brazil.

In 2010, we consulted with the Institute for Justice and Democracy/Bureau des Avocats Internationaux to compel Haiti to provide free universal primary education for all Haitians, as provided in that Nation’s constitution.

Mr. Sorgen has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East to interact and discuss with scholars, attorneys, political and social activists, and governmental officials on issues relating to humanitarian concerns, human rights and democracy. Much of this travel has been with groups of lawyers and judges, through the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild and Global Exchange.

 

Rights of Military Service personnel and Veterans; Peace Issues

 

In Doe v. Rumsfeld, 297 F. Supp. 2d 119, 135 (D.D.C. 2003), a decorated combat veteran serving in the Army Reserve filed the first of several unsuccessful challenges to the Army’s “stop loss” program, under which a National Guard member had his enlistment term extended involuntarily for combat duty in Iraq.  The reservist is identified as “John Doe” for reasons of privacy. Our office also filed a “friend of the court” (amicus) brief in support of another soldier’s challenge to the stop loss “backdoor draft” deployment to Afghanistan, Santiago v. Rumsfeld, 425 F.3d 549 (9th Cir. 2005), and represented three other decorated combat veterans in the National Guard or the Army Reserve who gained release from further deployments.

Under the stop loss program, the Army has prevented tens of thousands of soldiers from retiring or leaving the military upon completing their enlistment terms so that they could be deployed to or kept in Iraq or Afghanistan as a primary source of US military personnel there.  The petition asserted that the program was unfair, unconstitutional, unauthorized by law, and in breach of Doe’s standard enlistment contract.  The stop loss program has been widely criticized as a “backdoor draft” and was phased out in 2010. Early in Mr. Sorgen’s career, he did similar work designed to conduce the termination of military activities in Vietnam.

In Doe v. Hagee, N.D. Ca. No. C061777 MHP (2008), we forced the Marines to take steps to prevent sexual abuse during recruitment and to pay a substantial sum to the victims. We also recovered damages against the individual perpetrators. We also consulted with plaintiffs’ counsel in Veterans for Common Sense v. Shinseki No. 08–16728 where the 9th Circuit ruled en banc in May 2012 that curbing or eliminating unreasonable delays in providing mental health care to returning combat veterans had to be handled by a special Veteran’s Court.

In United States v. Arcata, No. 629 F. 3 d (9th Cir. 2011), we defended the City of Arcata’s Youth Protection Act, a ballot initiative which had passed overwhelmingly to prevent military recruiters from attempting to enlist minors under the age of 17 without prior parental consent.  We also invoked a treaty ratified by the United States which contains a similar prohibition. Although the ordinance tracked federal statutory restrictions, the Court found that the local enforcement provisions were pre-empted.