On April 21, 2005, a woman represented by private attorneys from several Philadelphia, New York, and D.C. law firms filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She alleged that the City of Philadelphia of had an unconstitutional blanket policy and/or practice of strip searching all pre-trial detainees remanded to the custody of the Philadelphia Prison System, regardless of criminal charge or reasonable suspicion. Plaintiff alleged that the policy required all arrestees to disrobe in front of a corrections officer, who then conducted visual inspection of the genitals and body cavities, using a flashlight to illuminate body cavities. Plaintiff claimed the practice violated the Fourth Amendment and sought declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and class certification for the thousands who allegedly suffered the same indignities. The City of Philadelphia, the prison system, and officials responsible for that system, as defendants, answered by generally denying the allegations.
Following discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment. By order dated June 9, 2006, the District Court (Judge Mary A. McLaughlin) denied the motions, advising the parties that the motions could be refiled after resolution of the issue of class certification.
Plaintiff moved for class certification on February 16, 2007, and for a preliminary injunction on March 23, 2007. Both motions were still pending at the time of this summary. Between the motion filings, on February 23, 2007, plaintiff filed an amended complaint adding a male plaintiff and naming only the City of Philadelphia as the defendant. Discovery proceedings continued and, on July 3, 2007, Judge McLaughlin's unpublished order directed that the matter was set for a settlement conference on July 24, 2007, before Magistrate Judge Elizabeth T. Hey.
On February 20, 2009, the parties entered into a $5.9 million settlement. The agreement established the following two settlement classes:
All persons in the Settlement Class, EXCEPT for persons who (1) were charged with certain violence, drug and/or weapons (hereinafter "VDW") related misdemeanor charges at the time of their admission, or (2) were charged with bench warrants and/or probation violations where the underlying charge was a VDW misdemeanor charge, or (3) had convictions for felonies and/or VDW misdemeanor charges predating the date of their admission.
All persons in the Settlement Class who were (1) charged with VDW misdemeanor charges at the time of their admission, or (2) were charged with bench warrants and/or probation violations where the underlying charge was a VDW misdemeanor charge, or (3) had convictions for felonies and/or VDW misdemeanor charges predating the date of their admission.
On November 3, 2009, the court entered a Memorandum and Opinion and a separate Memorandum and Order, granting final approval of the proposed settlement.Kristen Sagar - 06/16/2009