Plaintiff filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in California state court challenging the Sacramento County Jail's policy of strip-searching all detainees, regardless of charges. Plaintiff was arrested on misdemeanor charges for protesting at a hearing where the Forestry Department was discussing ...
read more >
Plaintiff filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in California state court challenging the Sacramento County Jail's policy of strip-searching all detainees, regardless of charges. Plaintiff was arrested on misdemeanor charges for protesting at a hearing where the Forestry Department was discussing cutting down trees on private property. She was taken to jail and subjected to a strip search, including a videotaped body cavity search. She subsequently filed a state court class action suit against the sheriff and county, alleging privacy and other civil rights violations.
On March 14, 2000, the Sacramento County Superior Court (Judge Thomas Cecil), certified the class. The court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs on the privacy rights issue in January 2003, awarding each class member was awarded the greater amount between actual damages or $1,000. (The court ruled for defendant on the §1983 claim, finding that the sheriff had immunity from suit.)
Defendants appealed, seeking to have the class action decertified and reversal on the summary judgment decision. While that appeal was pending, Sacramento County changed its search policy.
The private attorney for the plaintiff then brought a similar §1983 class action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, but the court refused to allow any plaintiffs who were included in the state court class.
The parties then reached a settlement, which they submitted to the superior court in June 2004. The court (Judge Richard Park) approved it preliminarily that same month, setting a fairness hearing for October 2004. Judge Park gave final approval to the settlement on October 22, 2004. According to news reports, eventually over 4300 claims were submitted. Attorney Mark Merin received a $3 million dollar fee; $500,000 was allocated to claim administration. The 7 named plaintiffs split $410,000. Most other plaintiffs received between $1000 and $3500; about 1000 claimed more because of psychological injury they suffered. In the end, defendants' total payout was about $15 million.Margo Schlanger - 07/14/2007