Following an OSHA investigation which uncovered substandard working conditions at the DeCoster Egg Farm, several of the Farm’s migrant workers sued in federal court in Maine for discriminatory treatment, violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, breach of contract and fraud. The Mexican government, the primary sponsor of this litigation, purported to sue in its capacity as parens patriae. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss Mexico, ruling that Mexico lacked standing because the parens patriae doctrine does not apply to foreign nations. A separate judgment was entered to allow Mexico to appeal.
NELF filed an amicus brief in the First Circuit and contended that the extension of parens patriae standing to foreign nations is bad public policy that will cause unnecessary lawsuits with damages being paid to foreign countries rather than to victims of discrimination. NELF also argued that the Supreme Court cases that established the doctrine implied that parens patriae standing was granted to resolve matters judicially between states that fully sovereign nations would resolve diplomatically or militarily. The First Circuit agreed and affirmed. The Court acknowledged "with appreciation" the briefs filed by NELF and an amicus supporting Mexico.