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Case Name Gallagher v. San Mateo County, California JC-CA-0023
Docket / Court 04-0448 SBA ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On February 3, 2004, private attorneys Andrew C. Schwartz and Mark E. Merin filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging the San Mateo County Sheriff's policies, practices, and customs ... read more >
On February 3, 2004, private attorneys Andrew C. Schwartz and Mark E. Merin filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging the San Mateo County Sheriff's policies, practices, and customs concerning the use of strip searches and visual body cavity searches on female detainees in the San Mateo County Jail. Plaintiffs alleged that the Sheriff had a blanket policy of subjecting all female detainees in their custody to strip and visual body cavity searches before they were arraigned, regardless of whether any reasonable suspicion existed that the detainees possessed contraband or weapons. This policy, plaintiffs alleged, violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and California state law. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, monetary damages and class certification. Defendants generally denied the allegations.

On October 31, 2005, the District Court (Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong) granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification. October 28, 2005, the Honorable Saundra Brown Armstrong issued her Order certifying the action to proceed as a class action, with the classes defined as follows:

a. Federal claim ("Class One"): All women who, from February 3, 2002 to December 2, 2003, were arrested on any charge (including felonies) not involving weapons, controlled substances, or violence, and not involving a violation of parole or a violation of probation (where consent to search is a condition of such probation), and who were subjected to a uniform and indiscriminate (blanket) strip/visual body cavity search by defendants before arraignment at the San Mateo County Jail without any individualized reasonable suspicions that they were concealing contraband. This class also includes all female arrestees who were subjected to subsequent blanket strip search before arraignment after the initial strip/visual body cavity search without any reasonable individualized suspicion that they had subsequently acquired and hidden contraband on their persons.

b. State law claim ("Class Two"): All female arrestees who, from June 12, 2003 to December 2, 2003, were arrested on an infraction or misdemeanor charge and brought to the San Mateo County Jail and who were subjected to a uniform and indiscriminate (blanket) strip/visual body cavity search before arraignment without written supervisorial authorization, as required under California Penal Code § 4030(f).

Protracted negotiations followed, including a series of settlement conferences with Chief Magistrate Judge James Larson and the Honorable Raul A. Ramirez (retired). Eventually, the parties reached a tentative resolution and filed a joint motion for preliminary settlement approval on February 5, 2007.

Following a fairness hearing on November 6, 2007, Judge Armstrong approved the class settlement. A final order of dismissal was entered on November 29, 2007. Under the settlement, defendants agreed to pay 1.9 million to settle all class claims. Of that sum, $600,000 went to class counsel Andrew C. Schwartz and Mark E. Merin for attorneys' fees and up to $150,000 was allocated for the costs of claims administration. The named representative plaintiffs collectively shared $120,000. Up to $1.15 million was allocated to pay valid individual claims, based on an agreed distribution formula.

Dan Dalton - 01/22/2008


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
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) County of San Mateo
Maguire Correctional Facility
San Mateo County Sheriff's Department
WomenÕs Correctional Center
Plaintiff Description Persons who from 7/10/03 to the present were arrested and subjected to a prearraignment strip and/or visual body cavity search at the San Mateo Jail without defendants having a reasonable suspicion that the search would be productive 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)
4:04-cv-00448-SBA (N.D. Cal.) 04/03/2007
JC-CA-0023-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint 02/03/2004
JC-CA-0023-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order (On Class Certification) 10/31/2005 (N.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0023-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Class Action Complaint 07/18/2006
JC-CA-0023-0001.pdf | Detail
Stipulated Motion for Preliminary Approval of Provisional Settlement Class and Settlement of Class Action 02/05/2007
JC-CA-0023-0002.pdf | Detail
Order for Preliminary Approval of Settlement of Class Action [Proposed] 02/05/2007 (N.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0023-0003.pdf | Detail
Stipulation of Settlement 02/05/2007
JC-CA-0023-0004.pdf | Detail
Order for Preliminary Approval of Settlement of Class Action 04/03/2007 (N.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0023-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Armstrong, Saundra Brown (N.D. Cal.)
JC-CA-0023-0003 | JC-CA-0023-0005 | JC-CA-0023-0007 | JC-CA-0023-9000
Monitors/Masters Ramirez, Raul Anthony (California)
JC-CA-0023-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Liberty, Micha Star (California)
JC-CA-0023-0006 | JC-CA-0023-9000
Merin, Mark E. (California)
JC-CA-0023-0001 | JC-CA-0023-0002 | JC-CA-0023-0003 | JC-CA-0023-0004 | JC-CA-0023-0005 | JC-CA-0023-0006 | JC-CA-0023-9000
Schwartz, Andrew Charles (California)
JC-CA-0023-0001 | JC-CA-0023-0003 | JC-CA-0023-0004 | JC-CA-0023-0005 | JC-CA-0023-0006 | JC-CA-0023-9000
Seaton, Thomas Andrew (California)
JC-CA-0023-0001 | JC-CA-0023-0006 | JC-CA-0023-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Armsby, Aimee B. (California)
JC-CA-0023-9000
Casey, Thomas F. III (California)
JC-CA-0023-0002 | JC-CA-0023-0003
Cassidy, Terence J (California)
JC-CA-0023-0002 | JC-CA-0023-0003 | JC-CA-0023-0004 | JC-CA-0023-0005 | JC-CA-0023-9000
Woodward, Carol L. (California)
JC-CA-0023-0002 | JC-CA-0023-0003 | JC-CA-0023-0004 | JC-CA-0023-0005 | JC-CA-0023-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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