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Case Name Wells v. City of Seattle JC-WA-0005
Docket / Court 2:02-cv-00601-MJP ( W.D. Wash. )
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On March 13, 2002, two named plaintiffs, male and female, represented by private attorneys, filed a civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. At first, their case asserted against the City of Seattle and its police ... read more >
On March 13, 2002, two named plaintiffs, male and female, represented by private attorneys, filed a civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. At first, their case asserted against the City of Seattle and its police constitutional and state law violations stemming from the allegedly false arrests of the plaintiffs. They filed amended complaints on April 17, 2002, and October 26, 2002, in which they also alleged that the King County Sheriff's Department had an unconstitutional policy and/or practice of strip searching all individuals who entered the King County Jail, regardless of the crime charged and without reasonable suspicion to believe that the individuals were concealing weapons or contraband. Plaintiffs alleged that the County's policy violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as a 1983 permanent injunction entered against King County by the same federal court in Grew v. King County, case # C-83-157-V.

The plaintiffs alleged that they were part of a group of Alaskan tourists that had flown to Seattle, Washington on November 27, 2002, to go Christmas shopping. The plaintiffs alleged that, on November 30, 2002, they left a mall and were caught up in a parade of individuals demonstrating against the World Trade Organization. Plaintiffs said that Seattle riot police engaged the demonstrators, after which numerous citizens were swept up and arrested, including plaintiffs. They alleged they were then taken to King County Jail, where each underwent an unconstitutional strip search.

In their amended complaints, plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys' fees and costs, and class certification. Defendants, the County and the Sheriff, answered by generally denying all allegations. Several individually-named defendants raised the defense of qualified immunity and moved for summary judgment. The plaintiffs opposed the motions.

Before the District Court made any substantive rulings in the case, the individually-named plaintiffs settled. District Court Judge Marsha J. Pechman approved the settlement on February 5, 2003. The terms of the settlement provided for payment from a fund of $115,000 as follows: the two named plaintiffs to receive payments of $15,000 and $32,500, respectively, and their attorneys to receive fees of $7,500 and $60,000, respectively. The non-economic portion of the settlement provided for dismissal without prejudice to the claims of the putative class, for seating and visual separation/curtain improvements at the jail detainees' dressing areas, and for posting in jail holding cells and dressing areas of understandable signage notifying persons of the order in the Grew case.

We have no information indicating further activity in the case.

Dan Dalton - 01/29/2008

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Search policies
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Seattle
King County
King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs were Christmas shopping in downtown Seattle. There were mass demonstrations occurring in the streets, and the plaintiffs were arrested along with demonstrators upon walking out of a coffee shop. Females later strip-searched at King County Jail
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
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 2003
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
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

2:02-cv-00601-MJP (W.D. Wash.) 02/05/2003
JC-WA-0005-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Damages 03/13/2002
JC-WA-0005-0001 PDF | Detail
First Amended Complaint 04/17/2002
JC-WA-0005-0002 PDF | Detail
Second Amended Complaint - Class Action for Damages 10/26/2002
JC-WA-0005-0003 PDF | Detail
Order Approving Settlement 02/05/2003 (W.D. Wash.)
JC-WA-0005-0004 PDF | Detail
Judges Pechman, Marsha J. (W.D. Wash.)
JC-WA-0005-0004 | JC-WA-0005-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Diamondstone, Fred (Washington)
JC-WA-0005-0002 | JC-WA-0005-0003 | JC-WA-0005-0004 | JC-WA-0005-9000
Spearman, Theodore F. (Washington)
JC-WA-0005-0001 | JC-WA-0005-0002 | JC-WA-0005-0003 | JC-WA-0005-0004 | JC-WA-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bundy, Kristofer John (Washington)
JC-WA-0005-0004 | JC-WA-0005-9000
Gerberding, John M. (Washington)
Larson, Stephen Powell (Washington)
JC-WA-0005-0004 | JC-WA-0005-9000
Onsager, David J. (Washington)
Sheehan, Thomas Sean (Washington)
Swartling, David D. (Washington)
JC-WA-0005-0004 | JC-WA-0005-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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