To close the loop on some prior stories we’ve been covering, a Florida-based federal judge has entered a final, multimillion-dollar default judgment in a civil suit against Charles Taylor’s son, Charles McArthur “Chuckie” Taylor (right).
As you’ll recall, Chuckie was arrested while entering the U.S. and prosecuted for torture and conspiracy to commit torture in connection with his role as commander of the so-called “Demon Forces” anti-terrorism paramilitary unit in Liberia (map at left). In 2008, a federal jury in the Southern District of Florida had found Taylor guilty, and a judge sentenced him to 97 years in prison.
The World Organization for Human Rights (USA) subsequently filed a civil suit against him on behalf of some of his Liberian victims. The suit ultimately resulted in a default judgment in the amount of $22.5 million.
Plaintiffs had sought class certification as a damages class action under FRCP 23(b)(3), but U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan ruled that the questions of law and fact common to the proposed class did not predominate over the individual issues. See Kpadeh v. Emmanuel, 261 F.R.D. 687 (S.D. Fl. 2009).
In so ruling, the judge considered, but declined to follow, two prior certification rulings in human rights cases: Hilao v. Estate of Marcos, 103 F.3d 767 (9th Cir. 1996), and Doe v. Karadzic, 1176 F.R.D. 458 (S.D.N.Y. 1997). Hilao made waves for the 9th Circuit's acceptance of a decision below to use statistically significant sampling and damages schedules to apportion damages to different sub-groups of plaintiffs. Judge Jordan ruled that such an approach would fall below the due process owed to the defendant and to each individual plaintiff. 261 F.R.D. at 692. Judge Jordan reasoned nothing prevented other potential plaintiffs from filing additional suits against Taylor. He noted that while contingency fees are probably unavailable given that the first judgment is unlikely to be executed in full, human rights clinics would undoubtedly be willing to bring additional cases against Taylor pro bono.
Documents concerning the case, including the federal indictment and several amicus briefs, are available here.