On May 3, 2005, three inmates who had been housed at the San Bernardino County Jail filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County of San Bernardino and the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The plaintiffs asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated by the defendants' policy sanctioning the systematic strip searching of all detainees who pass through the county jail system, regardless of the nature of the crime prompting their detention. They claimed that the searches occurred in full view of jailors and detainees of the opposite sex, and took place even when the detainee in question had already been ordered released on bail after making an appearance in court.
On February 16, 2006, the defendants asked the District Court to dismiss the case. On March 23, 2006, the District Court (Judge Stephen G. Larson) dismissed the portion of the complaint where the plaintiffs were attempting to sue Sheriff Penrod in his official capacity, and the Court also dismissed the portion of the complaint being brought under the California Constitution. With regard to the other portions of the complaint, the Court denied the motion to dismiss.
On October 11, 2006, the District Court officially certified four plaintiff classes, with a number of sub-classes. The classes were defined as: 1) pre-arraignment arrestees, 2) court returns entitled to release, 3) challenge to manner in which searches were conducted, and 4) transports.
The plaintiff classes asked the court for summary judgment, and on December 7, 2006, the District Court (Judge Larson) partially granted their request, holding that the policy of strip searching arrestees returning from court in a group setting when they were entitled to be released was unreasonable and that the policy of strip-searching pre-arraignment arrestees charged with crimes not involving drugs or violence who were transferred from short-term to long-term jails was also unreasonable. Craft v. County of San Bernardino, 468 F.Supp.2d 1172 (C.D.Ca. 2006).
On September 21, 2007, the parties entered into a settlement agreement, which was preliminarily approved by the District Court. According to the document, the County of San Bernardino agreed to pay $25,500,000.00 to the plaintiff class in order to fully settle the claims against them. All fees were to be paid out of this settlement fund. In addition, the defendants agreed to discontinue strip-searches of arrestees who would fall into any of the certified classes in this lawsuit, and the plaintiffs agreed to release all claims that they had against the defendants.
On April 1, 2008, the District Court approved the settlement. Each claimant will receive $700-800 on average ($50 minimum). The named plaintiffs will share a total payout of $200,000. Class attorney's fees were set at $6,325,000 -- 25% of the class damages.Kristen Sagar - 07/09/2008