University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name K.A. v. Hobby ED-GA-0002
Docket / Court 1:17-cv-00099-LJA ( M.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Education
Policing
Attorney Organization Southern Center for Human Rights
Case Summary
This case was brought in response to an event that occurred on April 14, 2017 in Worth County. That day, approximately 40 uniformed police officers arrived at Worth County High School and put the school on lockdown to conduct a drug search. They did not have a search warrant. Although the officers ... read more >
This case was brought in response to an event that occurred on April 14, 2017 in Worth County. That day, approximately 40 uniformed police officers arrived at Worth County High School and put the school on lockdown to conduct a drug search. They did not have a search warrant. Although the officers had a “target list” of thirteen suspected students, the officers subjected the entire student body of 900 students to hands-on body searches. The plaintiffs reported that officers had touched them inappropriately, “manipulated” students’ breasts or genitals, and inserted their hands inside students’ undergarments.

On June 1, 2017, nine high school students filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. The case was assigned to Judge Leslie Abrams. Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, the plaintiffs sued the Worth County Sheriff’s Office — specifically the officers who were involved in the searches. The plaintiffs alleged that the drug searches were an unconstitutional search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment; that they violated their right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment; and that they violated the Georgia State Constitution. Represented by the Southern Center for Human Rights and private counsel, the plaintiffs sought damages, declaratory relief, and attorneys’ fees.

On June 20, 2017, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint adding additional officers as defendants; and on June 23, the court granted an unopposed motion to dismiss claims against 26 individual defendants. On August 4, the plaintiffs moved for class certification. The proposed class would consist of “all students seized and searched by Worth County Sheriff’s Office employees at Worth County High School on April 14, 2017, other than those identified on the Sheriff’s target list.”

On September 5, 2017, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ state law claims. They argued that Georgia law had no damages remedy for violating the state constitution and that the defendants were entitled to official immunity.

On October 10, 2017, the parties filed a motion to stay discovery because they had begun discussions regarding class certification and a possible settlement. The court granted this motion nine days later. On November 21, the court granted a motion to stay all proceedings. On December 4, the parties had reached a settlement agreement, and they filed a joint motion to certify the class.

Under the terms of the proposed $3 million settlement, the defendants agreed to notify the class members through mail and newspaper advertisements and collect response forms from the class members regarding the April 2017 drug search. They would pay damages between $1,000.00 and $6,000.00 to each class member and attorneys fees of $450,000. The remaining funds would be used to start a fund to benefit Worth County High School students.

The court preliminarily approved this settlement agreement and certified the class on March 23, 2018. The last fairness hearing for class members to voice their concerns was held on July 11, 2018. There were no objections.

A similar case was filed in criminal court near the same time that this case was filed in civil court. On October 3, 2017, a grand jury in South Georgia indicted the Worth County Sheriff and two of his deputies for sexual battery, false imprisonment and violation of oath of office by a public officer. After subsequently being indicted two more times on a combined 156 charges involving events unrelated to this case, the sheriff pled guilty on July 25, 2018 to three counts of violation of oath of office, one of which stemmed from the school search. As part of his plea deal, he was sentenced to six months in prison (including time served), five years probation, and was barred from holding public office for five years, among other conditions.

Rebecca Strauss - 06/19/2018
Alexander Walling - 08/15/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Aggressive behavior
Assault/abuse by staff
Excessive force
False arrest
Juveniles
Restraints : physical
Search policies
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
State law
Defendant(s) Worth County Sheriff's Office
Plaintiff Description All students seized and searched by Worth County Sheriff’s Office employees at Worth County High School on April 14, 2017, other than those identified on the Sheriff's target list.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Southern Center for Human Rights
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
http://law.duke.edu/journals/lcp
Date: Spring 2008
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis Faculty)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:17−cv−00099−LJA (M.D. Ga.)
ED-GA-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/03/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
ED-GA-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/01/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 10]
ED-GA-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/20/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 40-2]
ED-GA-0002-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/04/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Preliminarily Approving Settlement [ECF# 48] (M.D. Ga.)
ED-GA-0002-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/23/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Abrams, Leslie Joyce (M.D. Ga.)
ED-GA-0002-0003 | ED-GA-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Begnaud, Mark Andrew (Georgia)
ED-GA-0002-0001 | ED-GA-0002-0002 | ED-GA-0002-0004 | ED-GA-0002-9000
Geraghty, Sarah E. (Georgia)
ED-GA-0002-0001 | ED-GA-0002-0002 | ED-GA-0002-0004 | ED-GA-0002-9000
Horsley, Nathanael A. (Georgia)
ED-GA-0002-0001 | ED-GA-0002-0002 | ED-GA-0002-0004 | ED-GA-0002-9000
Littman, Aaron Michael (Georgia)
ED-GA-0002-0001 | ED-GA-0002-0002 | ED-GA-0002-0004 | ED-GA-0002-9000
Redd, Crystal (Georgia)
ED-GA-0002-0001 | ED-GA-0002-0002 | ED-GA-0002-0004 | ED-GA-0002-9000
Weber, Gerald R. (Georgia)
ED-GA-0002-0001 | ED-GA-0002-0002 | ED-GA-0002-0004 | ED-GA-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Rollins, Raleigh W. (Georgia)
ED-GA-0002-0004 | ED-GA-0002-9000
Strickland, Richard K. (Georgia)
ED-GA-0002-0004 | ED-GA-0002-9000

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