Washburn Law Clinic Helps Secure $8 million Human Trafficking Judgment

Photograph: Gillian Chadwick Photograph: Abby Hoelting
Photograph: Connor Goodman
Professor Gillian Chadwick
Abby Hoelting, '18
Connor Goodman, '18

The Washburn Law Clinic, in collaboration with McGuireWoods LLP, helped secure an $8 million judgment on behalf of a survivor of human trafficking on May 23, 2018. The award comes after a federal judge in Kansas City found that the plaintiff, Kendra Ross, had been forced to work over 40,000 uncompensated hours by a "regimented cult" from 2002 to 2012. Experts say the judgment is the largest single-plaintiff trafficking award in American history.

Clinic Professor Gillian Chadwick, along with Connor Goodman, '18, have worked on Ross's legal team since last September, with assistance from Abby Hoelting, '18, in the fall of 2017. Goodman shared what the experience has meant to him. "The opportunity to work on a federal human trafficking case was the highlight of my Washburn Law Clinic experience," he said. "My participation was part of a major group effort made up of talented attorneys from McGuireWoods and the Clinic. Our communication, planning, and execution of litigation objectives as a team helped me to prepare for future endeavors where teamwork and communication are vital. Overall, it was a fantastic experience."

Chadwick said the case offered powerful learning experiences for students. "This case exemplifies the dual goals of the law clinic: educating students and serving the interests of justice. Our students worked with a top law firm litigating a multi-million dollar claim on behalf of a survivor who managed to not only escape but also stand up to her perpetrators in court. It has been a tremendously rewarding experience and we look forward to continuing to fight for this client and all the clients we serve in the clinic. 

"The decision is, of course, a huge validation for our incredibly courageous client," said Chadwick, "but it's also an important contribution to the developing body of human trafficking case law."

Ross's case has received national media attention, bringing focus to the problem of forced labor. Following the judge's ruling, Ross shared her appreciation: "I'm grateful for all of the support I've gotten over the past few years and very appreciative of the hard work my lawyers and team have done. Mostly, I'm very happy that justice has been served and that Royall, UNOI, and The Value Creators are exposed." Ross also had a message for those still trapped. "To all of the members who are still a part of The Value Creators, and those who have left, it is not too late to get out, to be free and get help, justice and closure."

The Washburn Law Clinic's mission is to contribute to the education and development of law students into thoughtful, skilled, and ethical attorneys. The Clinic provides students with the opportunity to practice law and represent clients while under the personalized supervision of an experienced faculty attorney. Students interested in participating in the Clinic can visit the website for more information.  

Attorney Betsy Hutson led the pro bono team from McGuireWoods, a leading international law firm with more than 1,100 lawyers in 23 offices worldwide.