Betsy Hutson accepted the
“Litigation Firm of the Year” award from the Human Trafficking Legal Center in October, her client Kendra
Ross stood side-by-side with her.
Ross’ childhood was stolen by a “regimented cult” and its leader, who
forced her to work without pay, benefits or breaks from age 11 until 21,
until her escape. Ross subsequently met Hutson at a specialized aftercare
shelter for trafficking victims and, over the course of three years, Hutson
earned Ross’ trust.
Hutson put together a McGuireWoods team of litigators that filed a civil
suit on Ross’ behalf in federal court. Ross alleged in her complaint that
the Value Creators Inc., formerly known as the United Nation of Islam
(UNOI), and its leader, Royall Jenkins, made her work more than 40,000
uncompensated hours from 2002 until 2012. McGuireWoods lawyers crafted an
innovative legal strategy and calculation for unpaid wages that a U.S.
district judge in Kansas adopted, granting Ross’ motion for default
judgment and awarding her nearly $8 million in damages, plus costs and
attorney’s fees. Judge Daniel D. Crabtree noted that the defendants stole
Ross’ childhood and violated her basic human and civil rights.
The May 23, 2018, judgment is the
largest single-plaintiff trafficking award in American history.
Working with Hutson on the McGuireWoods legal team were partners
Phillip Chang; associates
Lauren Cafferty Mahaffey,
Kayla Marshall and
Katlyn Davis Farrell; international attorney
Andrew Thornton-Dibb; and counsel
The pro bono victory led the Human Trafficking Legal Center's board of
directors to name McGuireWoods
“Litigation Firm of the Year.”
At the center’s second annual On My Side Awards reception in Washington,
D.C., Hutson and Ross accepted the award together.
“This has been a really long process,” Hutson
told AP. “It is a result of a lot of years of hard work. We see that she has made
incredible progress, coming out of this cult and facing her perpetrators.”
“It is difficult for trafficking survivors to articulate the complexities
of fear, dependence, loyalty, and the myriad of other conflicting emotions
that influenced them to remain with their traffickers,” Hutson recently
wrote in an article for
Trafficking Matters, a project of The Human Trafficking Institute. “Working with Kendra, our
aim was to have a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach that empowered
her, avoided re-victimization, and restored a sense of autonomy and control