Ford v. Garcia

In October- 2002, CJA authored an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs’ petition to the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. The original complaint was filed against two former generals from El Salvador- Jose Guillermo Garcia and Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova- alleging command responsibility for the sexual assault, torture and murder of four U.S. churchwomen by Salvadoran National Guardsmen in 1980.

Background

In May 1999, the families of the churchwomen filed suit against the Generals, who had retired to Florida, with grants of political asylum. In October 2000, a federal jury rendered a verdict clearing the generals of liability for the crimes, after erroneously including “proximate cause” in the jury instructions as a necessary element for actions brought under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). Moreover, in its instructions, the district court placed the burden of proof on the plaintiffs, rather than on the defendants contradicting the clear congressional intent behind the TVPA.  The plaintiffs appealed, but in April 2002, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision in Ford v. García.

Our amicus brief in support of the subsequent certiorari petition addressed the proper allocation of the burden for proving “effective control” under the command responsibility doctrine and the standard of review for invited error in jury instructions.

Outcome

In 2003, the Supreme Court denied the cert petition.

In Romagoza v. Garcia and Casanova, a sister case filed by CJA, the jury found the generals liable for torture in July 2002 and imposed $54 million in damages.

Visit the website of the PBS documentary Justice and the Generals to learn more about the case.

Attached Documents

CJA Amicus Brief
Oct 2002 Amicus Brief: CJA
Related Documents
Oct 2002 Cert Petition to U.S. Supreme Court
30 Apr 02 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion