On July 13, 2006, two individuals, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit against Defendants Allegheny County in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, challenging the Allegheny County Bureau of Corrections' ...
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On July 13, 2006, two individuals, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit against Defendants Allegheny County in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, challenging the Allegheny County Bureau of Corrections' policy and practice of strip-searching all individuals entering Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) who were placed in jail clothing, regardless of their criminal charge and without reasonable suspicion to believe they were concealing a weapon or contraband. Plaintiffs, through private counsel, filed their complaint on behalf of themselves and a purported class of thousands of others who were strip searched at ACJ after having been charged with minor criminal offenses.
Plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages for themselves and all class members, as well as a declaratory judgment that Allegheny County's former policy and practice on strip searches was unconstitutional. Defendants answered the plaintiffs' complaint by requesting that the court either dismiss the case or grant the defendants summary judgment. The case was assigned to District Judge Terrence F. McVerry, who referred it to Magistrate Judge Robert C. Mitchell. Magistrate Mitchell recommended that the defendants' motion to dismiss be denied. District Judge McVerry adopted the recommendation and denied Defendants' motion to dismiss. Delandro v. County of Allegheny, 2007 WL 81061 (W.D.Pa. Jan 08, 2007).
On November 30, 2007, the plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction and class certification. In their motion for a preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs sought to enjoin the defendants from illegally strip-searching all pretrial detainees entering custody at ACJ in the absence of individualized reasonable suspicion. And in an Order dated March 18, 2008, the Court granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.
Upon the completion of discovery, the plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of the constitutionality of the strip-search policy. The defendants responded to the plaintiffs' motion and filed their own motion for summary judgment, arguing in part that the search policy was justified by ACJ's need for security and safety. Defendants further sought summary judgment for those claims directed at the individually named defendants brought in their official capacity. On December 2, 2009, the Court granted the plaintiffs' partial motion for summary judgment of liability as to the County, and granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the individual defendants. Following that order, the parties engaged in settlement negotiations, which ultimately resulted in a settlement agreement.
The settlement agreement recognized that the County had changed its policy to stop strip-searching all pretrial detainees on a blanket basis and to stop strip-searching misdemeanor detainees in the absence of reasonable suspicion of a weapon or contraband. The settlement agreement required all correction officers to have access to the policy and be trained on proper search policy. The settlement agreement also created a fund of three million dollars ($3,000,000.00) to compensate class members, and dictated that $18,000.00 will be requested for each of the two (2) class representatives. The Settlement Agreement provides that each class member who submits a timely claim form will be granted a pro rata share of the settlement fund in an amount not to exceed $3,000.00 per class member. Any undistributed funds will be donated to Neighborhood Legal Services Association of Allegheny County, PA.Caitlin Howitt - 08/11/2011
Daniel Fryer - 02/15/2016