On December 24, 2002, Plaintiff Gamino filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, raising Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment challenges against the Ventura County Sheriff's blanket policy of strip searching all individuals booked into the Ventura County Jail on suspicion of being under the influence of illegal drugs. Defendants answered Plaintiff's complaint by generally denying the allegations.
On September 17, 2003, the District Court (Judge Consuelo B. Marshall) entered a stipulated order certifying the case as a class action. The class was defined as consisting of all person who were arrested under Health and Safety Code subsection 11550 and strip searched in Ventura County between December 24, 2001, and March 27, 2003.
This case was a companion case to Way v. County of Ventura (located in this database at JC-CA-40), which challenged the same practice. In Way, the District Court entered summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, finding that (a) the challenged strip search, conducted pursuant to the County's policy, violated the Fourth Amendment and (b) Defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. Defendants appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
The District Court in Gamino (Judge Marshall) entered an order providing that the liability in the Gamino case would be ultimately controlled by the appellate outcome in Way. Consequently Judge Marshall removed the Gamino case from the active docket while the Way appeal was pending in the Ninth Circuit.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its opinion in Way on April 20, 2006. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court's determination that the strip search was unconstitutional, and that the qualified immunity defense was unavailable to Ventura County. The Ninth Circuit determined, however, that the individual defendant deputies were entitled to qualified immunity. Way v. County of Ventura, 445 F.3d 1157 (9th Cir.2006). Certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court. Ventura County v. Way, 127 S.Ct. 665 (2006).
Following the Ninth Circuit's decision in Way, the parties in Gamino engaged in extensive settlement negotiations. They agreed to have the Honorable Edward A. Infante act as the settlement officer and special master. In March 2007, the District Court referred the case to Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick for settlement purposes. Judge Eick subsequently conducted numerous settlement conferences with the parties.
On July 25, 2008, the parties entered into a settlement agreement, which was approved by the court on February 5, 2009. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants agreed to pay each of the class representatives $50,000. Tier 1 class plaintiffs were to be paid $250 each, Tier 2 class plaintiffs were to be paid $650 each, Tier 3 class plaintiffs were to be paid $2300 if they were wrongfully searched only once and $3000 if they were searched twice. The defendants also agreed to pay a lump attorney fee sum to the plaintiff class counsel in the amount of $1.4 million. The defendants agreed to pay up to $250,000 in administrative costs for the settlement.Kristen Sagar - 06/10/2009