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Case Name Brecher v. St. Croix County, Wisconsin JC-WI-0005
Docket / Court 02-C-0405-C ( W.D. Wis. )
State/Territory Wisconsin
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On August 9, 2002, two plaintiffs represented by private attorneys from Minnesota and Wisconsin filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The plaintiffs challenged the policies, practices, and customs ... read more >
On August 9, 2002, two plaintiffs represented by private attorneys from Minnesota and Wisconsin filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The plaintiffs challenged the policies, practices, and customs concerning the blanket strip and visual body cavity searches at Wisconsin's St. Croix County Jail. Plaintiffs alleged that, pursuant to a policy adopted by the St. Croix County Sheriff's Department on May 5, 1996, all persons entering the jail were strip searched, whether or not reasonable suspicion existed that the searches would produce contraband or weapons. This policy, plaintiffs alleged, violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiffs sought monetary damages and class certification. The Sheriff and County denied all allegations.

On February 13, 2003, the District Court (Judge Barbara Crabb) certified the case as a class action, defining the class as: "All United States citizens arrested for misdemeanors or ordinance offenses unrelated to weapons or illegal drugs who were required by officers of the St. Croix County jail to remove their clothing for visual inspection of their genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or breasts between August 6, 1996, and February 27, 2001." Blihovde v. St. Croix County, Wis., 219 F.R.D. 607 (W.D. Wis. Feb 13, 2003). See Blihovde v. St. Croix County, Wis., 2003 WL 23095561 (W.D. Wis. Mar. 05, 2003) (regarding notice to class members). The Court approved two proposed class notices: one for adult class members and one for minor class members. Blihovde v. St. Croix County, Wis., 2003 WL 23200374 (W.D. Wis. Apr. 25, 2003).

Following notification of some 2,917 potential class members, the parties settled the case and submitted the proposal to the District Court for preliminary approval. Following a fairness hearing, Judge Crabb issued an order of final approval on February 2, 2004. Under the settlement, the Sheriff and County agreed to pay a total of $6.965 Million to resolve all class claims. Of that amount, over $1.3 Million were awarded to class counsel as attorneys' fees and costs. The named plaintiffs each would receive $35,000. The remaining $5.5 Million were divided among the 1,983 identified and responding class members per an agreed distribution scheme, with each getting just under $2800.

After the claims were paid, several individuals who had not received class notices filed letters with the court, which deemed them motions to reopen the case. The Court denied the motions, noting that although the individuals were not able to participate in the settlement, they were still free to file their own lawsuits. Brecher v. St. Croix County, Wis., 2004 WL 1196982 (W.D. Wis. May 26, 2004).

We have no information indicating other post-settlement activity in the case.

Dan Dalton - 02/05/2008


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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) St. Croix County
St. Croix County Sheriff's Department
Plaintiff Description All persons arrested for misdemeanors or ordinance offenses unrelated to weapons or illegal drugs and strip searched at the St. Croix County Jail between August 6, 1996, and February 27, 2001.
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 2003
Case Ongoing No
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)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Opinion and Order 02/13/2003 (219 F.R.D. 607) (W.D. Wis.)
JC-WI-0005-0003 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order 03/05/2003 (2003 WL 23095561) (W.D. Wis.)
JC-WI-0005-0006 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Opinion and Order 04/25/2003 (2003 WL 23200374) (W.D. Wis.)
JC-WI-0005-0005 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Settlement Agreement 05/17/2004
JC-WI-0005-0001 PDF | Detail
Order 05/26/2004 (2004 WL 1196982 / 2004 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 9870) (W.D. Wis.)
JC-WI-0005-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Judges Crabb, Barbara Brandriff (W.D. Wis.) [Magistrate]
JC-WI-0005-0003 | JC-WI-0005-0004 | JC-WI-0005-0005
Crocker, Stephen L. (W.D. Wis.) [Magistrate]
JC-WI-0005-0006
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Miller, Barbara K. (Wisconsin)
JC-WI-0005-0001
Moccio, Vincent J. (Minnesota)
JC-WI-0005-0001 | JC-WI-0005-0003 | JC-WI-0005-0004 | JC-WI-0005-0005 | JC-WI-0005-0006
Defendant's Lawyers Ford, Michele (Wisconsin)
JC-WI-0005-0001
Pollen, Raymond J. (Wisconsin)
JC-WI-0005-0003 | JC-WI-0005-0004 | JC-WI-0005-0005 | JC-WI-0005-0006
Other Lawyers None on record

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