On May 5, 2006, an individual who had been arrested on a minor criminal charge filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging that the Mercer County Sheriff's Department had an unconstitutional blanket policy and/or practice of ...
read more >
On May 5, 2006, an individual who had been arrested on a minor criminal charge filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging that the Mercer County Sheriff's Department had an unconstitutional blanket policy and/or practice of strip searching all individuals who entered the Mercer County Jail, regardless of the criminal charge or absence of reasonable suspicion. Plaintiffs claimed that the practice violated the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and sought declaratory and injunctive relief, monetary and punitive damages, and class certification on behalf of thousands of similarly situated individuals. The County and the Sheriff answered by generally denying the allegations.
The case was assigned to Chief Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr., who referred the case to Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni to oversee discovery. On August 2, 2007, Magistrate Judge Bongiovanni referred the case to mediation and stayed all proceedings.
In November 2008, a settlement agreement was finalized between the parties and given preliminary approval by Judge Bongiovanni. On April 20, 2009, Judge Bongiovanni released an order granting final approval of the class action settlement. The settlement provided that the case be dismissed with prejudice and the claims against the defendants be dropped in exchange for a settlement amount of $1.8 million for plaintiff and those of his class. Plaintiff himself was to receive $20,000 for the trouble he took to bring the lawsuit; the rest of his class was to receive a pro rata share of the settlement fund; plaintiff attorneys received $540,000 in attorney fees.
Additionally, Mercer County asserted that it changed its policy on strip searches on August 17, 2006, as a result of this litigation. The new policy ended the practice of strip searching detainees on a blanket basis, as well as the practice of strip searching non-indictable detainees in the absence of reasonable suspicion. Mercer County further asserted that beginning on August 17, 2006, all corrections officers had been trained in the new policy. Dan Dalton - 01/29/2008
Kat Brausch - 03/20/2016