On March 7, 2006, seven individuals that had been arrested on minor offenses filed a class action civil rights suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, challenging the strip search policy of the Dona Ana County Jail. Plaintiffs alleged that the Dona ...
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On March 7, 2006, seven individuals that had been arrested on minor offenses filed a class action civil rights suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, challenging the strip search policy of the Dona Ana County Jail. Plaintiffs alleged that the Dona Ana County Sheriff had a blanket policy of strip searching all pre-arraignment detainees upon their arrival at the Jail, regardless of the offense charged, or whether their was any suspicion that the detainee possessed weapons or contraband. The plaintiffs, who were strip searched pursuant to this policy, alleged that that the policy violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as state tort law. Plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages, declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as class certification. The Dona Ana County Sheriff generally denied the allegations.
Shortly after the suit was filed, the District Court (District Judge William P. Johnson) stayed the proceedings at the request of the parties so that they could pursue settlement negotiations. Ultimately, a settlement agreement was reached. After the initial settlement agreement, Judge Johnson entered an agreed order consolidating the case with a similar case styled Rodriguez v. Dona Ana County, which contested strip searches at the County juvenile detention facility. (See JI-NM-0003). The parties then filed an Amended Stipulation of Settlement, under which the Defendants agreed to pay $5.3 million to resolve all class claims. The stipulated Adult Settlement Class included all detainees who were strip searched between March 7, 2003, and March 7, 2006, at the Dona Ana County Jail prior to arraignment. The stipulated Juvenile Settlement class included all detainees who were strip searched between May 16, 2003, and May 16, 2006, at the Dona Ana Juvenile Detention Center. It was estimated that there were approximately 11,000 class members. Individual claims were to be paid per an agreed-upon distribution formula, with the range of expected pay-outs per individual claimant was estimated at $1,200 to $2,400. Representative plaintiffs would receive a total $200,000 or $25,000 per class representative. $1,666,667 of the settlement fund was allocated for attorneys' fees.
Judge Johnson preliminarily approved the settlement on December 20, 2007.
On May 20, 2008, the district court (Judge Johnson) issued a final approval of the settlement and a final judgment of dismissal in the case.Kristen Sagar - 10/03/2008