On March 19, 2004, two plaintiffs represented by private attorneys from Albany, New York, 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 New York, alleging that the Schoharie County Sheriff's Department ("SCSD") had an unconstitutional blanket policy and/or practice of strip searching all individuals who entered the Schoharie County Jail, including those charged with misdemeanors or held on civil matters, regardless of the crime for which they were charged and without reasonable suspicion to believe that the individuals were concealing weapons or contraband. The named plaintiffs included an Albany County Jail corrections officer arrested for back child support and another man charged with DWI. They alleged that, pursuant to the Sheriff's policy, they were forced to strip naked and subjected to visual inspections in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs also alleged the constitutional violation stemmed from the Sheriff's deliberate indifference to constitutional rights by not adequately training individual officers he employed. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, monetary and punitive damages and class certification for the thousands of individuals that suffered the same alleged indignities. Defendants, the County and the Sheriff, answered by generally denying all allegations.
The case was assigned to District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn, who referred the case to Magistrate Judge David Homer to oversee scheduling and case discovery. A scheduling order was entered, which directed the parties to complete discovery by June 1, 2005. Discovery ensued. On the last day of discovery, the County moved to amend its answer to assert an affirmative defense that the plaintiffs failed to comply with the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) (PLRA). The District Court (Magistrate Judge Homer) denied the County's request to answer, finding that the PLRA did not apply to the case, as neither plaintiff was incarcerated at the time the case was filed. Kelsey v. County of Schoharie, 2005 WL 1972557 (N.D. N.Y. Aug 05, 2005) (NO. 04-CV-299).
Plaintiffs moved for class certification, which the defendants opposed. Defendants, in turn, moved for summary judgment. Judge Kahn denied defendants' motion for summary judgment and certified the case as a class action. The class was defined as:
All persons in the United States who have been, or will be, placed into the custody of the Schoharie County Jail after being charged with "misdemeanors, violations, or held on civil matters" and were, or will be, strip searched upon their entry into the Schoharie County Jail pursuant to the policy, custom and practice of the Schoharie County Sheriff's Department and the County of Schoharie. The class period commences on March 19, 2001, and extends to the date on which the Schoharie County Sheriff's Department and/or the County of Schoharie are enjoined from, or otherwise cease, enforcing their unconstitutional policy, practice and custom of conducting strip searches absent reasonable suspicion. Kelsey v. County of Schoharie, 2007 WL 603406 (N.D. N.Y. Feb 21, 2007).
Judge Kahn refused to certify his order for immediate appeal by defendants.
Kelsey v. County of Schoharie, 2007 WL 1532024 (N.D. N.Y. May 24, 2007). On December 19, 2007, the Court held a pre-trial conference. As of June 2009, the trial in this case is still pending.Kristen Sagar - 06/30/2009