Firm Authors Amicus Brief in the Supreme Court on Behalf of Human and Civil Rights Organizations in Chiquita Banana Litigation

June 7, 2021

On June 2, the Firm filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court on behalf of several human and civil rights organizations in support of the petitioner’s petition for a writ of certiorari in Doe v. Chiquita Brands International. This is a case arising from Chiquita’s admission to criminal liability for funding militant groups in Colombia that terrorized and murdered laborers and activists. Following the company’s admission, the families of many people who were injured or killed as a result of Chiquita’s conduct filed civil lawsuits seeking damages, which were consolidated in Florida federal court. The plaintiffs entered into a stipulated protective order with Chiquita that would allow many plaintiffs to litigate using pseudonyms due to the threat of retaliation or harm from the militant groups in Colombia should their identities be made public. The court entered the protective order several years ago. After the plaintiffs had litigated pseudonymously for years, Chiquita asked the court to modify the protective order so as to remove the plaintiffs’ pseudonymity, without any apparent reason. The court agreed and held that Chiquita did not have the burden of justifying its requested change, even though it had stipulated to the protective order, the plaintiffs had relied on their ability to litigate under pseudonyms, and the risk of retaliation remains very real. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, a petition for rehearing en banc was denied, and now the plaintiffs are seeking review in the Supreme Court.

The Firm filed an amicus brief on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”), ACLU of Alabama, ACLU of Florida, ACLU of Georgia, Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Center for Justice and Accountability, Global Witness, Human Trafficking Legal Center, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Lawyers for Civil Rights—human and civil rights organizations that frequently bring lawsuits representing individuals who have a need to remain pseudonymous due to the risk of retaliation for their efforts. The brief explained that the rulings below incorrectly place the burden of justifying the continuation of a stipulated protective order on the party seeking protection, rather than the party seeking to modify the order. The brief also explained that this ruling, if not corrected, will have a serious and detrimental chilling effect on future human and civil rights litigation.

To read the brief click here.