Press Release

Cooley, ACLU Secure Settlement for Wrongly Prosecuted Scientist

Settlement delivers long-overdue accountability for discrimination at Department of Commerce
November 16, 2022

San Francisco – November 16, 2022 – Cooley, alongside the American Civil Liberties Union and others, secured a settlement for Sherry Chen, a Chinese American scientist with the National Weather Service, for her wrongful prosecution and termination from her job. Partner John Hemann led the Cooley team.

In 2012, the Commerce Department’s internal security unit, the Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS), began unlawfully investigating Ms. Chen as part of a broad pattern of discrimination directed at Chinese Americans, leading to her baseless arrest and prosecution by the FBI and Justice Department.

“For years, the Commerce Department refused to take responsibility for destroying Ms. Chen’s career,” said Hemann. “Today’s settlement is a win for the rule of law and helps to ensure that rogue units like ITMS will not be allowed to take root.”

The settlement is one of the largest paid to an individual plaintiff in Commerce Department history and marks the end of a Merit Systems Protection Board litigation appeal that has been pending since 2018, as well as a federal lawsuit against the US government filed in 2019.

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