On August 22, 2005, a female plaintiff represented by attorneys Mark E. Merin of Sacramento, California, Andrew C. Schwartz of Walnut Creek, California, and Robert R. Rothstein of Santa Fe, New Mexico, filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States ...
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On August 22, 2005, a female plaintiff represented by attorneys Mark E. Merin of Sacramento, California, Andrew C. Schwartz of Walnut Creek, California, and Robert R. Rothstein of Santa Fe, New Mexico, filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for New Mexico, challenging the strip search and visual body cavity search policy in effect at the Lincoln County Detention Center. The policy at issue required that all persons housed in the Detention Center undergo strip and visual body cavity searches before they were arraigned and without reasonable suspicion that the searches would produce contraband or weapons. Plaintiff maintained that the policy violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as state constitutional provisions and tort law, and sought monetary damages, declaratory and injunctive relief, and class certification. Named as defendants were Cornell Companies, Inc. and/or Correctional Systems, Inc. ("CSI") (the company that had contracted to operate the Detention Center), the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, and past and present Lincoln County Sheriffs. A First Amended Complaint, filed on June 28, 2006, added individuals defendants associated with Cornell/CSI and deleted the county sheriffs as defendants.
Almost immediately after the suit was filed, Cornell issued revised strip search policies for the Lincoln County Detention Center.
The parties engaged in extensive discovery, which included exchange of documents, interrogatories, and depositions. The parties took a statistical sampling of the files of approximately 3,000 persons booked at Lincoln County Detention Center during the period from August 22, 2002, until August 31, 2005 and estimated that approximately 1,200 persons who were arrested on charges not involving violence, drugs or weapons, were strip searched.
On July 12 and 13, 2006, the parties participated in mediation and arrived at an agreed Stipulation of Settlement. Under the Stipulation, the settlement class was defined as: "all persons arrested on charges not involving violence, drugs or weapons, on or between August 22, 2002, and August 31, 2005, who were strip searched at the Lincoln County Detention Center prior to arraignment." Defendants agreed to pay $1.6 million for settlement of the class claims. Of that fund, $750,000 was earmarked for distribution to qualified claimants that submitted a claim form. The named plaintiff was to receive $100,000. $600,000 was allocated for attorneys' fees and $150,000.00 to cover the costs of claims administration.
The District Court (District Judge William P. Johnson) granted preliminary approval of the class action settlement and conditionally certified the settlement class. Following a fairness hearing on November 29, 2007, the settlement was approved.Dan Dalton - 02/18/2008