Joseph et al v. Signal International, LLC et al
ORDERED that the magistrate judges report and recommendation (Doc. No. 219) is adopted; and the Motion (Doc. No. 161) is denied.. Signed by Judge Ron Clark on 3/17/2015. (bjc, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
BIJU MAKRUKKATTU JOSEPH, et al.
SIGNAL INTERNATIONAL L.L.C.,
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
The court referred this case to the Honorable Zack Hawthorn, United States Magistrate
Judge, for pretrial proceedings. (Doc. No. 4.) Pending before the court is the “Motion of Signal
Defendants for Partial Summary Judgment” (Doc. No. 161) filed by Signal International, L.L.C.,
Signal International, Inc., Signal International Texas, G.P., and Signal International Texas, L.P.
(collectively, “Signal”). The court has received and considered the report and recommendation of
the magistrate judge (Doc. No. 219), who recommends that the court deny Signal’s motion.
Signal filed timely objections to the report and recommendation (Doc. No. 224), and the Plaintiffs
filed a response. (Doc. No. 225.)
A party who files timely written objections to a magistrate judge’s report and
recommendation is entitled to a de novo determination of those findings or recommendations to
which the party specifically objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c) (Supp. IV 2011); FED. R. CIV. P.
72(b)(2)–(3). “Parties filing objections must specifically identify those findings [to which they
object]. Frivolous, conclusive or general objections need not be considered by the district court.”
Nettles v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404, 410 n.8 (5th Cir. 1982) (en banc), overruled on other grounds
by Douglass v. United Servs. Auto. Ass’n, 79 F.3d 1412 (5th Cir. 1996) (en banc).
Signal raises three objections to the magistrate judge’s report. After considering Signal’s
objections, the court finds that they are without merit and that the magistrate judge’s findings and
conclusions are correct. First, Signal argues that the magistrate judge erred in finding that a
conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. §§ 1589 or 1590, which is motivated by racial animus, is
actionable under § 1985(3). Signal, however, has failed to convincingly show that the magistrate
judge erred. First, Signal’s reliance on Great Am. Fed. Sav. & Loan v. Novotny, 442 U.S. 366
(1978) is misplaced. Novotny held that a violation of Title VII was not actionable under § 1985(3)
in large part because if allowed, plaintiffs could avoid Title VII’s administrative scheme.
Novotny, 442 U.S. at 373–74 (discussing that Title VII creates a “comprehensive plan” and “[i]f a
violation of Title VII could be asserted through § 1985(3), a complainant could avoid most if not
all the these detailed and specific provisions of the law”). The “right to be free from the badges of
slavery,” however, is a right protected § 1985(3). Id. at 383 (Stevens J., concurring). Moreover,
18 U.S.C. §§ 1589 and 1590, which were passed pursuant to Congress’s powers under the
Thirteenth Amendment, seek to outlaw modern manifestations of slavery and involuntary
servitude. Therefore, it follows that a conspiracy to violate these statutes would be actionable
under § 1985(3).
Signal’s second objection is that the Plaintiffs have failed to plead a distinct RICO person
and RICO enterprise. Signal argues that the Plaintiffs are asserting that Signal is both the RICO
person and the RICO enterprise. Signal overlooks the fact that the enterprises that the Plaintiffs
allege are association-in-fact enterprises consisting of numerous entities, not just Signal. In other
words, the Plaintiffs allege that Signal is a member of an enterprise, not that Signal is the
enterprise. Moreover, while Signal faults the magistrate judge for not considering two cases,
these cases merely stand for the basic proposition that a RICO person must be distinct from the
RICO enterprise. The magistrate judge correctly stated the law on this issue, despite not citing the
same cases as Signal.
Signal’s last objection is that the magistrate judge erred in finding that this case only
required a domestic application of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003
(“TVPRA”) and RICO.
Signal’s attempt to argue that the facts of this case are solely
extraterritorial is simply unavailing. First, as to the Plaintiffs’ claims under the TVPRA, Signal
fails to recognize that the Plaintiffs were trafficked to the United States. Second, as for the
Plaintiffs’ RICO claims, Signal fails to address how or why, under the three prevailing approaches
to determining whether RICO is being applied extraterritorially or domestically, its conduct was
extraterritorial. Signal seems to take issue specifically with the magistrate judge’s conclusion as
to the Plaintiffs’ wire and mail fraud claims. However, after reviewing the record, the court
agrees with the magistrate judge and finds that “Signal has pointed to nothing in the record
showing that the alleged mail and wire fraud occurred only abroad.” (Doc. No. 219, p. 22.)
After conducting a de novo review of the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation,
Signal’s objections, and the Plaintiffs’ response, the court finds that the magistrate judge’s
findings and conclusions are correct. See FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b)(3). In short, the court is
not convinced that there are no material issues of fact as to the matters raised or that
Signal is entitled to judgement as a mater of law. Accordingly, Signal’s
objections are overruled and the report and recommendation will be adopted.
It is therefore ORDERED that the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation (Doc.
No. 219) is ADOPTED; and the Motion (Doc. No. 161) is DENIED.
So ORDERED and SIGNED this 17 day of March, 2015.
Ron Clark, United States District Judge
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