Linda Miller ’76 has worked on dozens of human trafficking cases since she started the non-profit Civil Society in 1996.
In 2008, Miller received the Chief Justice Warren E. Burger ’31 Distinguished Alumni Award for “the highest values and ethical standards in serving the community” because of her work on behalf of trafficking victims.
“I want to make a change,” Miller said. “To stop the demand for children for sex. It’s ruining children’s lives.”
As founder and executive director of the St. Paul-based legal organization, she provides support, refuge, and legal aid for victims of human trafficking, many of whom are women brought to the U.S. as child brides.
“They’re young, they don’t have language skills, they don’t have any cultural skills to deal with all of the things that are happening here, and they just go under.” Miller said.
A case Miller filed in 2012 recently jumped into the media spotlight, in part because of increasing attention to the problem of human trafficking, and a twist in how the case could be decided.
Vang is suing a Minneapolis man nearly 30 years her senior, claiming he raped and impregnated her as a teenager in Laos, then brought her to the United States as a child bride.
With the help of Miller, Vang is seeking $450,000 in damages from Thiawachu Prataya.
The Star Tribune reports that in court filings, Prataya claimed he didn’t know Vang was a minor.
Miller is proceeding under a 2006 federal statute called Masha’s Law, which allows victims to bring a civil suit against anyone who uses their image in child pornography. Under the law, victim’s may still sue for compensation, even if prosecutors aren’t able to prove a criminal case.
But this case may be decided outside of a courtroom.
Both sides have signed off on a deal that could make the case a part of an upcoming reality show on NBC.
“Law and Order: You the Jury” will feature real-life civil cases. The verdict in the cases won’t be delivered by a jury, but rather by the show’s national TV audience.
Signing on to the potential TV deal was her client’s decision, according to Miller. She says if the show features Prataya’s case, and she wins, she’ll receive $450,000, the amount she’s seeking in her lawsuit.
“A show like this is going to be talked about more by the everyday person than a trial,” Miller said. “That’s going to increase the knowledge of this law. It’s never been used, except in a few criminal cases.”
It’s an unconventional approach, but one that Miller and her client hope will raise awareness of the fight against human trafficking, and protect young women who are a risk of becoming child brides.