Day Labor Suit Granted Second Continuance

Day Labor Suit Granted Second Continuance

Lawsuit on site's validity set back

The "day labor lawsuit" against the Town of Herndon and Fairfax County, brought by Herndon and Fairfax County citizens represented by the conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch, had its deadline for a formal bill of complaint pleading pushed back to May 5 in Fairfax County Circuit Court, on April 18.

After it was determined that the defendant parties and court had not all received the same attachments to the pleading, the attorneys for the seven plaintiffs had a continuance granted, and their deadline to file the pleading pushed back, according to Herndon town attorney Richard Kaufman.

The continuance was the second in the history of the suit, originally filed solely against the Town of Herndon on Sept. 1, 2005, Kaufman said. The first continuance was granted because Judicial Watch wished to bring suit against Fairfax County as well, he added.

"It's not uncommon to have continuances like this in a case with this much complexity," Kaufman said. "It's not common, but it's not uncommon."

Judicial Watch must now file a new pleading with the court on or before May 5 if it wishes to continue with the suit.

THE LAWSUIT HAS been brought against the town and county after Herndon and Fairfax County citizens expressed outrage over municipal property and county tax funds being used to establish an organized site where temporary day laborers, including undocumented immigrants, can come to find employment.

"We're trying to shut down the day labor site," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. "It's the illegal use of taxpayer money and taxpayer property to support illegal workers finding jobs."

The town granted the conditional use permit to Project Hope & Harmony, the coalition group who manages the site, to utilize the municipal parking lot at 1481 Sterling Road provided that they pay a $100 a month licensing fee for shared use of the property, according to Herndon town manager Steve Owen.

Fairfax County has signed Project Hope & Harmony, a branch of the non-profit group Reston Interfaith, to a one-year, $175,000 contract for day labor strategy management, according to the director of the site, Bill Threlkeld.

"We were given the contract by the county to do whatever we need to do to manage day laborers in Herndon," Threlkeld said. "It just so happens that our strategy is to operate this site."

"It's clear that the only thing that [Judicial Watch] is challenging is the use of tax dollars and the town allowing Hope and Harmony to use the parking lot for [a small price]," Herndon Mayor Michael O'Reilly said.

THERE IS NO TIMEFRAME set for the case, both Kaufman and Fitton said, although initial hearings on the pleading could be heard as soon as summer if there are no future delays, Kaufman said.

If Judicial Watch files their official pleading on or before May 5, "We will have 21 days from then to file a response," Kaufman said.

"The council isn't particularly concerned," O'Reilly said. "We're under the impression that we've made the right decision in this case ... and we will let the judges and lawyers continue handling it."

"I think the worst case scenario you're talking about here is the judge saying that we will need to charge [Project Hope & Harmony] the fair market price to use the site," he added.

"This case is a belt-winner," said Fitton. "Too many localities, and in this case the Town of Herndon and Fairfax County, think that they can support sites like these by violating our nation's federal labor laws."