Official Immunity

Author:International Law Group

Second Circuit affirms lower court's decision granting summary judgment to defendant holding that U.S. doctrine of official immunity protects Northrop Grumman Information Technology's (NGIT's) discretionary reporting of adverse allegations about Irish plaintiffs to proper government agencies


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In 1998, Congress enacted the Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998 (IPPCTP). It allows "young people from disadvantaged areas of [Ireland] suffering from sectarian violence and high structural employment to enter the United States for the purpose of developing job skills and conflict resolution abilities in a diverse, cooperative, peaceful, and prosperous environment, so that those young people can return to their homes better able to contribute toward economic regeneration and the Irish peace process."

The Department of State (DOS) and the then-Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) were to carry out the IPPCTP provisions. The regulations delegated the day-to-day operation of the plan to a Program Administrator (PA). Here, the PA is NGIT. Its duty is to identify job opportunities for program members and to recommend employers to take part in the program. The DOS has final authority to approve employers and to issue letters of certification to aliens chosen for the program. The PA would also make sure that the Irish youth meet program requirements and must report to the DOS and INS on key aspects of the program, such as a participant's termination or withdrawal from the program.

In August 2001, James Murray and Ruth Gould (plaintiffs) came to the U.S. on nonimmigrant visas under the IPPCTP to work at "Kitty Hawk Kites" in North Carolina. After September 11, 2001, however, business dropped off and plaintiffs transferred to Las Vegas Airsports (LVA), a hang-gliding school in Las Vegas, Nevada owned by Steve Smith. NGIT checked with Smith to verify that LVA qualified for the program; it then recommended it to the DOS, which in turn approved LVA as an IPPCTP employer for plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs went to work at LVA in October 2001. In early December of 2001, the relationship between the plaintiffs and Smith began to deteriorate. They complained that Smith failed to pay them, that he demanded completion of assignments unrelated to their agreed-upon responsibilities, and that he exposed the plaintiffs to unnecessary hazards. On January 10, 2002, Smith stopped furnishing plaintiffs with work and did not respond to their attempts to contact him. Ten days later the plaintiffs contacted NGIT to voice their concerns about Smith; again on February 13, 2002 they also asked for a transfer to a different employer.

Smith in turn called NGIT and denied that plaintiffs ever worked for him. He alleged that both...

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