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Why Jamie Leigh Jones Can’t Take Halliburton to Court

Jones couldn't seek criminal justice against her attackers, and then she couldn't seek civil justice, either.
 
 
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UPDATE: For more on this story, click here.

Back in December, we learned the painful story of Jamie Leigh Jones, who says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad. Jones filed a lawsuit, arguing that she had been raped by "several attackers who first drugged her, then repeatedly raped and injured her, both physically and emotionally."

Jones told ABCNews.com that an examination by Army doctors showed she had been raped "both vaginally and anally," but that the rape kit disappeared after it was handed over to KBR security officers.

This week, it appears that Jones is without legal recourse.

Thanks to an order signed by Paul Bremer, employees of U.S. contractors in Iraq are beyond the reach of the Iraqi criminal justice system, leaving them effectively in a legal black hole.... They could technically be tried in U.S. federal court for offenses committed in Iraq, but logistically that would be very difficult and the Justice Department has shown no interest in prosecuting Jones's case, meaning her assailants almost certainly won't face any criminal penalties.

But, to make things worse, as Peggy Garrity points out in an op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times, Jones also will likely be unable to pursue a lawsuit in civil court. For one thing, Halliburton claims it has mysteriously lost the doctor's report and photographs taken by a military doctor the day after the rape occurred, so it would hard for her to build a case in the first place. But even if she could, her employment contract stipulated that disputes would be resolved through a binding arbitration process, which lacks (among other things) a jury, rules of evidence, an appeals process, and -- perhaps most importantly -- media access and a transcript. Federal courts in Texas, Garrity notes, have recently proven fastidious about upholding binding arbitration clauses in all cases.

Jones couldn't seek criminal justice against her attackers, and then she couldn't seek civil justice, either.

It's the result of "tort reform."

Garrity's op-ed is worth reading in its entirety.

Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.

 
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