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Case Name Taha v. Bensalem Township JC-PA-0037
Docket / Court 2:12-cv-06867-WB ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Case Summary
On December 7, 2012, a former detainee of Bucks County Correctional Facility filed this class action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff initially sued Bensalem Township, various Bensalem Township officials, and the company that operated as Mugshots ... read more >
On December 7, 2012, a former detainee of Bucks County Correctional Facility filed this class action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff initially sued Bensalem Township, various Bensalem Township officials, and the company that operated as Mugshots.com, under Pennsylvania state law. The last amended complaint named defendants Bucks County and Bucks County Correctional Facility, along with Unpublish and Citizens Information Associates—the companies that operated mugshots.com, bustedmugshots.com, and mugshotsonline.com. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, sought injunctive relief, damages, and attorneys' fees. The named plaintiff alleged that the defendants publicly disseminated his personal information and criminal history despite his completion of a plea deal diversion program that expunged his record. He claimed that this conduct violated the Pennsylvania Criminal History Records Information Act (CHRIA), Pennsylvania state tort law, and Pennsylvania common law. The plaintiff sought injunctive relief for Bucks County Correctional Facility to cease publishing online criminal histories of individuals who were arrested but not convicted. As to Unpublish and Citizen Information Associates, the plaintiffs sought an injunction to order the defendants to take down their websites.

On February 5, 2013, Bensalem Township moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the plaintiff did not have a cause of action under state law to bring an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. On February 28, 2013, Judge Timothy Savage denied the motion to dismiss.

Meanwhile, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint to seek class action status in order to represent those whose records were ordered expunged and whose criminal history information was still available and publicly accessible in the files and on Bucks County Correctional Facility's website. The amended complaint included the Pennsylvania State Police commissioner, Bucks County, the Bucks County records custodian, director of Bucks County Department of Corrections, the warden of the Bucks County jail, and Mugshots.com as defendants. Further, the plaintiffs amended the complaint to add a claim under § 1983 that the defendants violated Fourteenth Amendment Due Process.

On March 18, 2013, Bensalem Township filed another motion to dismiss and on April 11, 2013, the Director of Public Safety moved the court to dismiss the claims against him as well. He argued that the plaintiff did not plead sufficient facts to allege he violated CHRIA or that the defendants’ conduct violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The court denied Bensalem Township’s motion on April 17, 2013 and denied the motion from the Director of Public Safety on July 30, 2013.

Various defendants continued to attempt to dismiss the case. On June 13, 2013, Bucks County, the warden, and the director of the Department of Corrections moved to dismiss the case. They alleged that the plaintiff failed to state a claim under § 1983 and argued that the defendants were entitled to immunity from the claims under CHRIA and state tort law. On June 14, the state police commissioner filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under both federal and state law and a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Judge Savage denied these motions on July 30, 2013.

On July 19, the plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint to add Bucks County Correctional Facility and Citizen Information Associates as defendants, which operated as bustedmugshots.com and mugshotsonline.com.

On August 8, 2013, Bucks County Correctional Facility and Bucks County moved the court to dismiss the case, alleging qualified immunity from the CHRIA claims and that the plaintiff lacked standing. Judge Felipe Restrepo denied the County and the County Correctional Facility’s motion on February 21, 2014. 2014 WL 695205.

On November 27, 2013, Citizens Information Associates, bustedmugshots.com and mugshotsonline.com, filed motions to dismiss the state records law and state tort laws claims. On March 26, 2014, Judge Restrepo denied the dismissal of the tort law claim. Concurrently, he granted the dismissal of the claims under CHRIA, holding that it does not apply to private actors, and also dismissed other state claims. 9 F. Supp. 3d 490.

On April 19, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint, adding Unpublish LCC, which operated mugshots.com.

On September 3, 2014, Citizens Information Associates filed a motion for summary judgment on the remaining tort claim against it. Granting it on December 30, 2015, the court dismissed it as a defendant.

On November 25, 2014, the defendants Bucks County and Bucks County Correctional Facility filed for summary judgment. On March 27, 2015, the plaintiffs moved for summary judgement. On March 28, 2016, Judge Wendy Beetlestone denied defendants’ motion and granted the plaintiff’s partial motion for judgment regarding liability, holding that the defendants wrongfully published state law-protected information on their website. She dismissed the plaintiff’s claim for “actual and real damages,” but allowed the question of punitive damages to proceed. 172 F. Supp. 3d 867.

Judge Beetlestone granted the plaintiff’s motion for class certification on May 4, 2016. 2016 WL 2345998. The class included about 66,799 individuals who had been incarcerated at the jail and whose information the jail publicly disseminated through their Inmate Lookup Tool.

On May 6, 2016, Judge Beetlestone stayed the proceedings pending review of Bucks County and Bucks County Correctional Facility’s motion to certify an order for interlocutory appeal. She denied the motion on May 20, 2016. On June 6, 2016, the court entered a default order against defendant Unpublish LLC for failure to appear.

On May 17, 2016, the County defendants appealed class certification to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and on May 2, 2016, they filed another motion to stay the proceedings. On June 8, 2016, the court entered an order to stay the proceedings and notification to the class, pending the Third Circuit decision on the appeal of class certification filed by the County defendants (USCA No. 16−3077). The Third Circuit affirmed class certification and denied the appeal on August 10, 2017. 862 F.3d 292. Later that month, the court lifted the stay.

For the remainder of 2017 and through early 2018, the parties scheduled and subsequently cancelled multiple settlement conferences. On September 21, 2018, Bucks County Correctional Facility and Bucks County moved for summary judgment and the plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment as well. On February 14, 2019, the court denied both motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether the defendants’ conduct was “willful,” a determinative question for granting punitive damages. 367 F. Supp. 3d 320.

In late May 2019, a jury trial began. On July 2, 2019, the jury awarded plaintiffs $68 million, averaging $1000 in punitive damages per class member. The defendants moved for a judgment as a matter of law or motion for a new trial, which Judge Beetlestone denied on October 4, 2019.

On July 29, 2019, defendants appealed to the Third Circuit (USCA No. 19-2761). The case is ongoing pending appeal as of October 23, 2019.

Lily Sawyer-Kaplan - 10/17/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Defendant-type
Corrections
Law-enforcement
General
Confidentiality
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Bensalem Township
Bensalem Township Director of Public Safety
Bucks County
Bucks County Correctional Facility
bustedmugshots.com, mugshotsonline.com
Lieutenant
mugshots.com
Plaintiff Description The class included about 66,799 individuals who had been incarcerated at the Bucks County Correctional Facility and whose information the jail publicly disseminated through their Inmate Lookup Tool.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2012
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
2:12-cv-6867 (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0037-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/08/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
JC-PA-0037-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/07/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [ECF# 64] (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0037-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/21/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [ECF# 70] (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0037-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/26/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Amended Complaint [ECF# 72]
JC-PA-0037-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/09/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [ECF# 139] (2015 WL 9489586) (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0037-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/30/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 146] (172 F.Supp.3d 867) (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0037-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/28/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 157] (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0037-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/04/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 267] (E.D. Pa.)
JC-PA-0037-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/14/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Beetlestone, Wendy (E.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-0003 | JC-PA-0037-0005 | JC-PA-0037-0007 | JC-PA-0037-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cullen, Patrick C. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Denenberg, Alan E (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-0001 | JC-PA-0037-0006 | JC-PA-0037-9000
George, Scott A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-0006 | JC-PA-0037-9000
Kohn, Joseph C. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Larocca, Robert J (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Laukaitis, Kevin (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Manohar, Aarthi (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Schaer, Theodore M. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Shub, Jonathan (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-0006 | JC-PA-0037-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Centrich, Joseph F. (Texas) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Chernak, Frank A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Clarke, Erin K. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Dux, Kathryn A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Harris, Jay Barry (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Kramer, Barry N. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Rublin, Burt (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Waldron, Brett M. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Winchester, Lance (Texas) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-9000
Other Lawyers Restrepo, Luis Felipe (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
JC-PA-0037-0009

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