US court halts prosecution of Sentosa nurses, lawyer

A United States court has ordered a halt on court proceedings against 10 Filipino nurses who resigned from a nursing home in the US, an online news report said Friday.

In a report by Newsday.com it stated that the appellate court stopped the Suffolk County district attorney’s prosecution of the 10 Filipino nurses and their lawyer, immigration attorney Felix Vinluan.

The four-person Appellate Division said in its 13-page decision that the charges “constitute an impermissible infringement upon the constitutional rights of these nurses and their attorney.”

The report added that the appellate court said the charges violated the nurses’ 13th Amendment rights that protect against “involuntary servitude” and Vinluan’s First Amendment rights.

The court stressed that the nurses’s shifts were covered when they quit their posts. The court gave weight to Vinluan’s right to advise his clients and stated that to “potentially inflict punishment for the good faith provision of legal advice is, in our view, more than a First Amendment violation. It is an assault on the adversarial system of justice.”

The nurses, who were recruited by SentosaCare, resigned from their jobs at the Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center on April 2006 due to violation of their original contracts and intolerable working conditions.

In March 2007, the Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota had won indictments against the nurses and Vinluan.

Last year, the State Education Department cleared the nurses of charges of placing the children’s welfare in jeopardy when they resigned en masse. Vinluan was also charged with criminal solicitation when he advised his clients’ of their rights to resign.

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