University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Kahler v. Rensselaer County JC-NY-0045
Docket / Court 1:03-cv-01324-TJM ( N.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On October 31, 2003, a young man (twice strip searched, at ages 16 and 17, after separate misdemeanor and minor violation arrests), represented by private attorneys from several New York firms, filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for ... read more >
On October 31, 2003, a young man (twice strip searched, at ages 16 and 17, after separate misdemeanor and minor violation arrests), represented by private attorneys from several New York firms, 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. He alleged that the Rensselaer County Sheriff's Department had an unconstitutional blanket policy and/or practice of strip searching all individuals who entered the Rensselaer County Jail, including those charged with misdemeanors or petty violations, regardless of the charge and without reasonable suspicion to believe that the individuals were concealing weapons or contraband. Plaintiffs alleged that the policy violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and class certification. Defendants, the County and the Sheriff, answered by generally denying all allegations.

Shortly after suit was filed, the parties settled the case and a related case, Bruce vs. County of Rensselaer (1:02-CV-847). Following passage of the periods for notice and claims, Judge Thomas J. McAvoy granted plaintiff's motion for class certification and for final approval of the Agreement. He entered judgment on September 24, 2004.

Under the settlement, Rensselaer County agreed to pay up to $2.7 million to settle all class claims, with each class member receiving $1,000. Claimants would receive the same amount, regardless of gender or the number of strip searches. The court awarded $442,701.74 for attorney's fees, litigation costs and claims administration expenses. The class representative received an incentive bonus of $5,000. The eventual participation rate was 27% -- 733 claims having been made (639 class members were paid; 94 disputed claims were being investigated). Based on the actual payout of $1,175,701.74, the fees, costs and expenses awarded in this case represented 37.65% of the settlement.

After the settlement was approved and claims were paid, approximately forty individuals whose claims had been denied by the County as untimely moved to have their claims paid. The District Court (Magistrate Judge David R. Homer) determined that some claims notices had been re-mailed to updated address and, thus, ruled that any claims received within 90 days of the latest re-mailing date would be paid. Kahler v. County of Rensselaer, 2005 WL 1981300 (N.D. N.Y. Aug 17, 2005).

On June 27, 2007, Judge Homer entered an order terminating the case at plaintiffs' request and without defense objection. We have no information that subsequent activity occurred in the case.

Dan Dalton - 03/05/2008


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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) County of Rensselaer
Rensselaer County Sheriff's Department
Plaintiff Description All persons placed into the Rensselaer County Jail from 6/26/99 - 7/1/02 after being charged with non-criminal infractions and were stip-searched upon entry into the Jail. Excluded are Defendants and any of their affiliates.
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 2005 - n/a
Case Closing Year 2007
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)
1:03-cv-01324-TJM-DRH (N.D.N.Y.) 06/27/2007
JC-NY-0045-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
1:02-cv-00847-TJM-DRH (N.D.N.Y.) 06/27/2007
JC-NY-0045-9001.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 10/31/2003
JC-NY-0045-0001.pdf | Detail
First Amended Class Action Complaint 03/17/2004
JC-NY-0045-0002.pdf | Detail
Settlement Agreement 03/18/2004
JC-NY-0045-0007.pdf | Detail
[Proposed] Order for Final Approval of Settlement, and Judgment, Final Order and Decree 08/16/2004
JC-NY-0045-0003.pdf | Detail
Order [Re: Class and Settlement] 09/23/2004 (2004 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 28899) (N.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0045-0004.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Memorandum-Decision and Order [Re: Late Claims] 08/17/2005 (2005 WL 1981300 / 2005 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 17090) (N.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0045-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Order [Dismissing Case] 06/27/2007 (N.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0045-0006.pdf | Detail
Judges Homer, David R. (N.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate]
JC-NY-0045-0006 | JC-NY-0045-0008 | JC-NY-0045-9000 | JC-NY-0045-9001
McAvoy, Thomas James (N.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0045-0003 | JC-NY-0045-0004 | JC-NY-0045-9000 | JC-NY-0045-9001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Keach, Elmer Robert III (New York)
JC-NY-0045-0001 | JC-NY-0045-0002 | JC-NY-0045-0007 | JC-NY-0045-0008 | JC-NY-0045-9000 | JC-NY-0045-9001
Mason, Gary E. (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0045-0001 | JC-NY-0045-0002 | JC-NY-0045-0007 | JC-NY-0045-9000 | JC-NY-0045-9001
Menken, Bruce E. (New York)
JC-NY-0045-0001 | JC-NY-0045-0002 | JC-NY-0045-0007 | JC-NY-0045-9000 | JC-NY-0045-9001
Rozger, Jason J. (New York)
JC-NY-0045-0001 | JC-NY-0045-0002 | JC-NY-0045-0007 | JC-NY-0045-9000 | JC-NY-0045-9001
Schneider, Charles A. (District of Columbia)
JC-NY-0045-0001 | JC-NY-0045-0002 | JC-NY-0045-0007
Defendant's Lawyers Davis, Dwight (New York)
JC-NY-0045-0007
O'Connor, Thomas J. (New York)
JC-NY-0045-0007 | JC-NY-0045-0008 | JC-NY-0045-9000 | JC-NY-0045-9001
Stewart, Daniel J. (New York)
JC-NY-0045-9001
Other Lawyers None on record

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