The work of Justin S. Wales, who graduated summa cum laude in May and works as an appellate attorney in Miami, is being noticed in high places.
Wales, a former Senior Notes and Comments Editor at the University of Miami Law Review, co-authored a brief for the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving the rights of workers on cruise ships and other vessels. That case also prompted the filing of an independent amicus brief that cited a Law Review article Wales wrote and published in 2011.
In a note to Miami Law, Wales wrote that the case is attempting to settle conflicting Supreme Court precedent involving seafaring workers and their right to have cases heard in United States courts. "On the one hand, there is a long history of the court opening up U.S. courts to the men and women at sea," Wales wrote. "The court has traditionally viewed itself as the protectors and wards of admiralty, and have nearly 200 years of case law stating such. On the other, over the last 50 years or so there has been this push towards allowing such employment contracts to be settled via arbitrations in other countries and under different sovereign laws."
Wales and his colleagues argued that according to the Supreme Court's own case law, seafarers are exempt from arbitration provisions under the Federal Employers Liability Act and that, therefore, any attempt by seafaring employers – mostly cruise lines – to contractually limit a seafarer's access to courts must fail. "It's more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it," Wales said. "Needless to say, it's a very important issue because the workers end up getting taken advantage of and, because of the high expense involved in arbitrating claims in foreign countries, the workers are practically precluded from seeking any sort of relief."
In some cases, he said, workers are forced to go thousands of miles – to the Philippines or the Bahamas, for instance – to have their claims heard.
The amicus brief was filed on behalf of Port Ministries International, an association of individuals and agencies that serve international seafarers and port communities by promoting evangelism, education and development of new ministries.
At Miami Law, Wales worked for the Federal Appellate Clinic and the Legal Aid Society, was a research assistant for Professor Kunal Parker, and spent a summer as an associate at Smith, Currie & Hancock. He made the Dean's List, won the Bruce J. Winick Award for Academic Excellence, and earned a Daniel Pearson Scholarship, among other accomplishments. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of California at San Diego in June 2009 with a B.A. in History and a minor in Political Science. He works for the Russo Appellate Firm in Miami.