On January 9, 2003, four persons represented by attorneys from several law firms in Louisville, Kentucky, filed this class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The plaintiffs challenged the strip search policy of the Hopkins County, Kentucky, jail. The plaintiffs alleged that they were searched pursuant to a blanket strip search policy of the jail which required all pretrial detainees transferred from other facilities to be strip searched, without regard to the individual circumstances surrounding the transfer or other factors indicating a reasonable suspicion to believe the transferee was concealing weapons or contraband. The plaintiffs maintained that the policy violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and sought monetary damages, injunctive relief and class certification.
On March 18, 2005, the District Court certified the case as a class action involving two classes, pursuant to an agreed order of the parties defining the classes as: (1) an "admission class" consisting "of all individuals arrested for minor offenses who were required to remove their clothing for a visual inspection on admission to the jail despite the absence of any reasonable suspicion that they were carrying or concealing weapons or contraband;" (2) "release class" consisting of "all persons who were required by defendants in the jail, just after becoming entitled to release, to remove all of their clothing for a visual inspection despite the absence of any reasonable grounds for doing so." To determine the scope of the classes, some 7,000 questionnaires were mailed to potential members.
The plaintiffs also filed an Amended Complaint on March 18, 2005. A Second Amended Complaint was filed on June 8, 2005 and a Third Amended Complaint on March 9, 2006. The defendants moved to dismiss the case on numerous grounds, including asserting a statute of limitations bar, lack of standing, failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and failure to meet the physical injury requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"). The District Court (District Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr.) denied the motion in all respects. Sutton v. Hopkins County, Ky., 2005 WL 3478152 (W.D. Ky. Dec 19, 2005). The defendants then requested that the Court establish a deadline for the return of inmate questionnaires. The District Court (Magistrate Judge E. Robert Goebel) denied the request. Sutton v. Hopkins County, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11243 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 16, 2006). See also Sutton v. Hopkins County, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3152 (W.D. Ky. Jan. 11, 2007) (Judge McKinley overruled defendants' objection to Magistrate Goebel's order).
Following discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment on the issue of the constitutionality of the jail policy of strip searching pretrial detainees who were transferred from other facilities, which remained in effect until May 25, 2006. The plaintiffs also moved for a preliminary injunction. The defendants, in turn, moved to decertify the class. Judge McKinley denied the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment and for a preliminary injunction and granted defendants' motion for partial summary judgment, concluding that Hopkins County Jail's policy of strip searching pretrial detainees who were transferred from other facilities was reasonable and justified. Sutton v. Hopkins County, Ky., 2007 WL 119856 (W.D. Ky. Jan 11, 2007). The defendants' request for class decertification was denied. Sutton v. Hopkins County, Ky., 2007 WL 119892 (W.D.Ky. Jan 11, 2007).
On July 17, 2008, the parties submitted a settlement agreement to the Court for approval. On July 18, 2008, the court (Magistrate Judge E. Robert Goebel) granted preliminary approval of the settlement agreement. On October 20, 2008, the court (Judge Joseph H. McKinley) granted final approval of the settlement agreement. The settlement was for $3 million, with the named class members getting a larger amount. Each class member would apply for compensation according to the procedure established in the settlement agreement. The settlement set forth procedures for claimants to appeal decisions from the claims administrator to the court. For example, on August 20, 2009, the court reversed and remanded a decision by the claims administrator denying relief to a plaintiff who had been strip-searched. 2009 WL 2589506 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 20, 2009).
One of the potential class members had challenged the approval of the settlement agreement and filed for a declaration of rights, to intervene and to hold in abeyance. The class member also filed a motion for equitable relief, for relief pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b), or, in the alternative, to reopen the case. On October 9, 2009, the court permitted the class member to submit a claim form to the claims administrator in accordance procedures set forth in the settlement. However, the Court declined to decide whether she qualifies as a member of the class at this time. Instead, the parties would adhere to the claims approval and appeal process set forth in the settlement. 2009 WL 3294843 (W.D. Ky. Oct. 13, 2009).
Also on October 9, 2009, the court allowed another potential class member who had been left out of the proceedings to submit a late claim form. 2009 WL 3299597 (W.D. Ky. Oct. 13, 2009).
On January 25, 2010, the court issued final judgment and dismissed this class action and all claims against defendants and their insurers with prejudice. All class members who did not make a timely request to be excluded from the class were barred and enjoined from commencing and/or prosecuting any claim or action against the defendants relating to the claims alleged in this case.
In 2013, a prisoner who had been deposed by the defendants but did not receive his claim filed a motion for relief. On March 4, 2013, the court denied his motion for relief. No other motions have been filed in the case since then. Dan Dalton - 02/18/2008
Jessica Kincaid - 03/18/2016