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Case Name Nilsen v. York County JC-ME-0001
Docket / Court 2:02-cv-00212 ( D. Me. )
State/Territory Maine
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On October 15, 2002, a man and woman represented by attorneys David G. Webbert of Augusta, Maine, and Howard Friedman of Boston, Massachusetts, filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for Maine. The lawsuit challenged the blanket ... read more >
On October 15, 2002, a man and woman represented by attorneys David G. Webbert of Augusta, Maine, and Howard Friedman of Boston, Massachusetts, filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for Maine. The lawsuit challenged the blanket policy of conducting routine, suspicionless strip searches of all pre-arraignment detainees entering the York County (Maine) Jail. Plaintiffs maintained that with every pre-trial detainee strip searched, regardless of the offense charged and whether there was reasonable cause to believe that each detainee carried concealed weapons or contraband, the policy violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. Plaintiffs sought monetary damages and class certification.

The District Court (District Judge David B. Hornby) adopted and modified the report and recommendation of Magistrate Judge David M. Cohen and certified the case as a class action, with the class defined as follows:

All people strip-searched at the York County Jail after October 14, 1996, under a policy or custom of conducting strip-searches without evaluating individualized reasonable suspicion:

(1) while waiting for bail to be set or for a first court appearance after being arrested on charges that did not involve a weapon or drugs or a violent felony; or

(2) while waiting for a first court appearance after being arrested on a default or other warrant that did not involve a weapon or drugs or a violent felony.

Nilsen v. York County, 219 F.R.D. 19 (D. Me. 2003).

Defendants appealed and the case was consolidated on appeal with Tardiff v. Knox County, a similar case pending before a different district court judge. (See JC-ME-4 of this collection). The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the class certification orders in both cases. Tardiff v. Knox County, 365 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2004) (Circuit Judge Michael Boudin).

After class certification was affirmed on appeal, the parties reached a tentative settlement and moved for preliminary court approval. Judge Hornby declined to give his preliminary approval of the settlement's provision that class members who were arrested multiple times receive no extra recovery for the resulting multiple strip searches. Rather, he advised the parties that he would rule on the issue following the fairness hearing, which he set for August 1, 2005. Nilsen v. York County, 228 F.R.D. 60 (D. Me. 2005). The Judge approved the class notice on Apr 01, 2005. Nilsen v. York County, 2005 WL 757859 (D. Me. 2005).

Following a fairness hearing on August 1, 2005, Judge Hornby approved the settlement in all respects, except the provision that called for the County to pay women twice as much as men. Nilsen v. York County, 382 F. Supp.2d 206 (D. Me. 2005). The parties then amended the settlement to provide equal settlement payments to male and female class members. Because of the amendment, female class members were given a new opportunity to opt out of the settlement. Judge Hornby approved the amended settlement. Nilsen v. York County, 400 F. Supp.2d 265 (D. Me. 2005).

Under the terms of the amended settlement, York County agreed to pay $3.3 million to settle the class claims. Of that amount, 20 class members received incentive awards totaling $25,500 for time spent working with class counsel on the settlement. York County also agreed to enact a new policy protecting the privacy of pre-trial detainees from illegal strip searches. Plaintiffs' attorneys were awarded fees of $825,000 (25% of $3.3 million fund). Nilsen v. York County, 400 F. Supp.2d 266 (D. Me. 2005). It was estimated that there were approximately 7,500 class members. Over 1,300 filed claims, constituting a participation rate of approximately 17.78%.

On November 30, 2005, Judge Hornsby recused himself from the case, in view of his spouse's business connections to the state. The case was reassigned to District Judge George Z. Singal. On June 26, 2006, Judge Singal directed the court clerk to close the case.

Dan Dalton - 02/17/2008


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
General
Search policies
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) York County
Plaintiff Description All people strip-searched at the York County Jail after 10-14-96 without individualized reasonable suspicion who were awaiting bail or a first hearing on charges or a warrant that did not involve a weapon, drugs, or violent felony.
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 2006
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing JC-ME-0004 : Dare v. Knox County (D. Me.)
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)
2:02-cv-00212-GZS (D. Me.) 12/07/2006
JC-ME-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Objection to Recommended Decision on Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification 10/14/2003
JC-ME-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Recommended Decision on Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification and Order Affirming Recommended Decision of the Magistrate Judge 12/18/2003 (219 F.R.D. 19) (D. Me.)
JC-ME-0001-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order on Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Settlement 03/04/2005 (228 F.R.D. 60) (D. Me.)
JC-ME-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order Directing Class-Wide Notice of Settlement 04/01/2005 (2005 WL 757859) (D. Me.)
JC-ME-0001-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Order on Motion for Final Approval of Class Settlement 08/18/2005 (382 F.Supp.2d 206) (D. Me.)
JC-ME-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order on Motion for Final Approval of Second Amended Settlement Agreement 09/08/2005 (400 F.Supp.2d 265) (D. Me.)
JC-ME-0001-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order on Motion for Award of Attorney Fees and Litigation Expenses 11/10/2005 (400 F.Supp.2d 266) (D. Me.)
JC-ME-0001-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
[Settlement Summary] 12/31/2005
JC-ME-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Judges Brownell, William S. (D. Me.) [Magistrate]
JC-ME-0001-9000
Hornby, David Brock (D. Me.) [Magistrate]
JC-ME-0001-0002 | JC-ME-0001-0005 | JC-ME-0001-0006 | JC-ME-0001-0007 | JC-ME-0001-0008 | JC-ME-0001-0009
Singal, George Z. (D. Me.)
JC-ME-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bills, Jennifer L. (Massachusetts)
JC-ME-0001-9000
Friedman, Howard (Massachusetts)
JC-ME-0001-0001 | JC-ME-0001-0002 | JC-ME-0001-0005 | JC-ME-0001-0006 | JC-ME-0001-0007 | JC-ME-0001-0008 | JC-ME-0001-0009 | JC-ME-0001-9000
Joun, Myong J. (Massachusetts)
JC-ME-0001-0002 | JC-ME-0001-0005 | JC-ME-0001-0006 | JC-ME-0001-0007 | JC-ME-0001-0009
Richards, J. Lizette (Massachusetts)
JC-ME-0001-0002 | JC-ME-0001-0005 | JC-ME-0001-0006 | JC-ME-0001-0007 | JC-ME-0001-0009 | JC-ME-0001-9000
Webbert, David G. (Maine)
JC-ME-0001-0001 | JC-ME-0001-0002 | JC-ME-0001-0005 | JC-ME-0001-0006 | JC-ME-0001-0007 | JC-ME-0001-0008 | JC-ME-0001-0009 | JC-ME-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Marchesi, Peter T. (Maine)
JC-ME-0001-0001 | JC-ME-0001-0002 | JC-ME-0001-0005 | JC-ME-0001-0006 | JC-ME-0001-0007 | JC-ME-0001-0008 | JC-ME-0001-0009 | JC-ME-0001-9000
McKeon, Thomas R. (Maine)
JC-ME-0001-0002 | JC-ME-0001-0005 | JC-ME-0001-0006 | JC-ME-0001-0007 | JC-ME-0001-0009 | JC-ME-0001-9000
Richardson, Harrison L. (Maine)
JC-ME-0001-0002 | JC-ME-0001-0005 | JC-ME-0001-0006 | JC-ME-0001-0007 | JC-ME-0001-0009 | JC-ME-0001-9000
Wall, John J. III (Maine)
JC-ME-0001-0001 | JC-ME-0001-0002 | JC-ME-0001-0005 | JC-ME-0001-0006 | JC-ME-0001-0007 | JC-ME-0001-0008 | JC-ME-0001-0009 | JC-ME-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Taub, Christopher C. (Maine)
JC-ME-0001-9000

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