On July 15, 2002, inmates of New York City jails filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of New York and jail officials in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the Court in a series of amended complaints for declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages, alleging that the defendants had violated their constitutional rights by subjecting them to strip searches in the absence of reasonable suspicion that the plaintiffs were concealing weapons or contraband.
The defendants asked the Court to disqualify one of the plaintiff's attorneys, alleging that he should be removed because he had represented the city in a different case. On June 3, 2003, District Judge Gerard E. Lynch denied the motion. McBean v. City of New York, No. 02-5426, 2003 WL 21277115 (S.D. N.Y. June 3, 2003).
On July 25, 2003, this case, McBean v. City of New York, was consolidated as the lead case with a similar case, Cence v. City of New York, No. 03-4114.
Shortly after the consolidation, the parties entered into settlement negotiations, and attended settlement conferences overseen by Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz. Just before agreement was reached, a group of putative plaintiffs, represented by different private counsel than the original plaintiffs, asked the Court to allow them to intervene and create a sub-class of misdemeanor arrestees charged with narcotics or weapons-related offenses. On April 27, 2005, Judge Lynch denied the motion to intervene, finding that the current named plaintiffs were adequate class representatives and that the class definition did not need to be narrowed. McBean v. City of New York, 228 F.R.D. 487 (S.D. N.Y. 2005).
On May 13, 2005, the parties reached a settlement agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, plaintiff class members were eligible to receive $750 if they were subjected to one wrongful strip search and $1000 if they were subjected to two or more wrongful strip searches. The defendants agreed to offer "gynecological services" to female pre-trial detainees until 2008, and they agreed that the female detainees had the right to refuse such services if they were unwanted. The defendants also agreed to pay $500,000.00 in attorneys' fees and costs for class counsel in this litigation, as well as the ongoing administration costs of the settlement.
After notification to potential plaintiff class members, the parties asked the Court for final approval of the settlement agreement. The previously- mentioned would-be plaintiff intervenors objected to the proposed settlement as unfair. On February 7, 2006, Judge Lynch approved the settlement agreement, finding that it was fair and had been properly negotiated. It called for a total payout to the class of approximately $2.8 million and payment of $500,000 in plaintiffs' attorneys' fees. McBean v. City of New York, 233 F.R.D. 377 (S.D. N.Y. 2006).
In 2007, the same private attorneys who had unsuccessfully sought to intervene in the case earlier and now represented a different group of plaintiff-intervenors, assertedly as a putative class (those subjected to improper strip searches after settlement had been reached with the original plaintiffs) asked the District Court to allow these new plaintiffs to intervene in the lawsuit. The defendants asked the Court to dismiss their motion as untimely. The proposed intervenors responded that they did not learn that there was an ongoing lawsuit concerning strip searches until November 2006. On February 13, 2007, the District Court (Magistrate Judge Katz) concluded that the motion to intervene was timely and allowed its proponents to join this case as plaintiff-intervenors. McBean v. City of New York, No. 02-5426, 2007 WL 473711 (S.D. N.Y. Feb. 13, 2007).
On August 29, 2007, the plaintiff-intervenors stipulated and agreed to dismiss their claims against the defendants pursuant to a settlement between the parties, except for claims relating to strip searches occurring when post-admission detainees leave the city's correctional facilities or when officials search a detainee's housing within one of the facilities. Under the terms of this settlement, the defendants agreed not to strip search any detainee without reasonable suspicion, to promulgate written policies regarding when strip searches were appropriate, to retrain their intake personnel within four months of October 4, 2007, to agree to appointment of a Special Master whose role would be to ensure adherence to the new policies, to post signs advising prisoners of the new policies and how to report violations, and to discipline employees who disregarded the new search policies. The defendants also agreed to pay attorneys' fees and costs.
On March 16, 2010, the parties entered a Stipulated Settlement providing for payment of $33 million dollars in damages by the City to the approximately 1000,000 pretrial detainees involved in the case. The Court (John G. Koeltl) preliminarily approved the settlement on March 22, 2010. Notice and a claim form will go out to each of the 100,000 persons in the case in mid-June, 2010.Kristen Sagar - 10/23/2007