Weeks after winning dismissal of a case alleging that CACI International employees directed mistreatment of Abu Ghraib detainees, the company has asked its accusers to pay a $15,580 bill for legal expenses.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs, all Iraqis who served time at the prison, opposed the request in a federal court filing on Monday.
In July, CACI secured a long-fought victory when a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit against one of the company’s units, deciding that because the alleged abuse happened overseas, the U.S. District Court in Alexandria did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.
According to a recent court filing, nearly two-thirds of the $15,580 bill relates to depositions CACI took, including costs for witness per diem fees and travel allowances as well as deposition transcripts.
About $3,500 of the total would cover the costs CACI said it incurred for medical examinations and to hire an interpreter for plaintiff depositions. That figure, the filing added, includes a fee the company paid when examinations were canceled without enough advance notice.
The plaintiffs oppose the move, arguing that CACI is out of time and that the request is unjust.
The plaintiffs “have very limited financial means, even by non-U.S. standards, and dramatically so when compared to the corporate defendants in this case,” the filing said. “At the same time, plaintiffs’ serious claims of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and war crimes were dismissed on very close, difficult — and only recently arguable — grounds.”
Baher Azmy, the attorney for the plaintiffs and legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the effort “appears to me an attempt to intimidate the plaintiffs.”
However, Michael T. Kirkpatrick, an attorney in the litigation group of nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen, said a bill of costs is standard court procedure.
“There’s nothing unusual at all about it,” he said, noting that a bill of costs covers only limited expenses, not the entire cost incurred.
Maxwell O. Chibundu, a law professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, said he was surprised that CACI is pursuing the matter.
“I think few large companies exercise that right in cases where they are sued by individuals on tortious civil rights or human rights grounds,” he wrote in an e-mail.
A company attorney declined to comment.
CACI has long been vocal in defending itself against the plaintiffs’ allegations. In 2008, J. Phillip “Jack” London, CACI’s executive chairman, published a book titled “Our Good Name: A Company’s Fight to Defend Its Honor and Get the Truth Told About Abu Ghraib.”
In a statement at the time of the dismissal, the company said it is “gratified by the court’s decision and hope[s] this is the end of these baseless lawsuits.”
The plaintiffs’ attorneys have filed a notice that they will appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Azmy said he expects to file the appeal this fall.