University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Allison v. Lincoln County JC-NM-0006
Docket / Court 1:05-cv-00881-WJ-WDS ( D.N.M. )
State/Territory New Mexico
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
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 ... read more >
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


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
General
Search policies
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action State law
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Cornell Companies, Inc.
Correctional Systems, Inc.
Lincoln County Board of Commissioners
Lincoln County Detention Center
Lincoln County Sheriff's Department
Plaintiff Description Persons arrested, not involving violence, drugs or weapons, who, in the period from three years prior to August 22, 2005, and August 31, 2005, who were subjected to strip searches at LCDC without reasonable suspicion of contraband.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2007
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies After Decision: Implementation of Judicial Decrees in Correctional Settings
Written: Oct. 01, 1977
By: M. Kay Harris & Dudley P. Spiller (Temple University)
Citation: (1977)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
http://law.duke.edu/journals/lcp
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:05-cv-00881-WJ-WDS (D.N.M.) 06/07/2007
JC-NM-0006-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint 08/22/2005
JC-NM-0006-0001 PDF | Detail
Amended Class Action Complaint 06/28/2006
JC-NM-0006-0002 PDF | Detail
Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement 10/25/2006
JC-NM-0006-0003 PDF | Detail
Supplemental Memorandum in Support of Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement 02/09/2007
JC-NM-0006-0004 PDF | Detail
Order Granting Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement and Conditionally Certifying the Class 05/01/2007 (D.N.M.)
JC-NM-0006-0005 PDF | Detail
Judges Johnson, William Paul (D.N.M.)
JC-NM-0006-0005 | JC-NM-0006-9000
Schneider, W. Daniel (D.N.M.) [Magistrate]
JC-NM-0006-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Merin, Mark E. (California)
JC-NM-0006-0001 | JC-NM-0006-0002 | JC-NM-0006-0003 | JC-NM-0006-0004 | JC-NM-0006-9000
Rothstein, Robert R. (New Mexico)
JC-NM-0006-0001 | JC-NM-0006-0002 | JC-NM-0006-0003 | JC-NM-0006-0004 | JC-NM-0006-9000
Schwartz, Andrew Charles (California)
JC-NM-0006-0001 | JC-NM-0006-0002 | JC-NM-0006-0003 | JC-NM-0006-0004 | JC-NM-0006-9000
Schwarzschild, Jeffrey I. (California)
JC-NM-0006-0001 | JC-NM-0006-0002 | JC-NM-0006-0004 | JC-NM-0006-9000
Williams, Cathleen A. (California)
JC-NM-0006-0001 | JC-NM-0006-0002 | JC-NM-0006-0004 | JC-NM-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Allen, Patrick D. (New Mexico)
JC-NM-0006-0003 | JC-NM-0006-0004 | JC-NM-0006-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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