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Case Name Baggett v. Ashe PC-MA-0040
Docket / Court 3:11-cv-30223-MAP ( D. Mass. )
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Prison Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On September 15, 2011, former prisoners at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center ("WCC") filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Hampden County Sheriff's Department. The plaintiffs, ... read more >
On September 15, 2011, former prisoners at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center ("WCC") filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Hampden County Sheriff's Department. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought money damages, alleging that the Sheriff's Department violated their Fourth Amendment rights by allowing male officers to be present for and videotape non-emergency strip searches.

Following discovery and arguments on the specifics of the Sheriff Department's policies with regards to non-emergency strip searches, on May 23, 2013 the District Court (Judge Michael A. Ponsor) granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The class consisted of 178 current and former WCC inmates who were videotaped by male correctional officers during strip searches. The Sheriff's Department appealed, but the First Circuit denied hearing the appeal.

On August 26, 2014, Judge Ponsor granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, finding that the mere presence of male corrections officer during non-emergency strip searches violated plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights. Further proceedings were deemed necessary to determine the issue of liability and potential monetary and equitable relief. The Sheriff's Department appealed the order to the First Circuit. While that ruling was pending on appeal, the court stayed further proceedings on Oct. 3, 2014.

Meanwhile, the parties reached a settlement in March 2015: the state (not the county) agreed to pay $675,000. $475,000 was allocated to the plaintiffs' attorneys for fees and $22,000 for costs; $20,000 to the lead plaintiff; $2,000 each to four plaintiffs who were deposed, and the remaining class members were set to receive at least $850, and more depending on the claiming rate. In addition, defendants agreed to change their policy to prohibit male officers from holding the video camera during strip searches except in exigent circumstances, as defined in the Prison Rape Elimination Act regulation, which defined "exigent circumstances" to be "any set of temporary and unforeseen circumstances that require immediate action in order to combat a threat to the security or institutional order of a facility." PREA Standards § 115.5. The defendants were to provide plaintiffs with statistics, a copy of the video of the full movie and strip search and any reports or materials documenting the need for the male videotaping up until June 30, 2016.

On April 2, 2015, the First Circuit remanded the case back to the district court in response to the parties' joint motion requesting the remand for purposes of holding a settlement fairness hearing.

A preliminary fairness hearing was held on April 9, 2015, and Judge Ponsor agreed to proceed to a final fairness hearing. On September 10, 2015 the court found the settlement fair and reasonable, and approved it; it also granted $475,000 in attorneys' fees and $22,000 in costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The First Circuit terminated the appeal on Sept. 16, 2015 in response to the parties voluntarily dismissing the appeal.

The case is now closed.

Brendan Brown - 09/18/2014
Abigail DeHart - 10/21/2016
Virginia Weeks - 03/09/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Search policies
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Hampden County
Plaintiff Description All women strip searched at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center while a male officer videotaped the strip search, since September 15, 2008.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2015 - n/a
Filed 09/15/2011
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
Date: Spring 2008
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis Faculty)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

3:11-cv-30223-MAP (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0040-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/16/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-MA-0040-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/15/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Regarding Plaintiffs' Motion For Class Certification [ECF# 86] (2013 WL 2302102) (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0040-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/23/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order Regarding Summary Judgment [ECF# 219] (41 F.Supp.3d 113) (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0040-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/26/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 242-1]
PC-MA-0040-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Ponsor, Michael Adrian (D. Mass.) show/hide docs
PC-MA-0040-0001 | PC-MA-0040-0003 | PC-MA-0040-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Friedman, Howard (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
PC-MA-0040-0002 | PC-MA-0040-0004 | PC-MA-0040-9000
Milton, David (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
PC-MA-0040-0002 | PC-MA-0040-0004 | PC-MA-0040-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Day, Thomas E (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
PC-MA-0040-0004 | PC-MA-0040-9000
Finnegan, Theresa M. S. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
McDonough, Edward J. Jr. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
Poole, C. Raye (Massachusetts) show/hide docs

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