On April 29, 2003, a person represented by a group of private attorneys from New York and D.C. law firms filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the North District of New York, challenging the jail admission policy of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department. The policy, known as a "change-out" procedure, required that each admittee to be placed in the Montgomery County Jail had to remove his/her clothes, shower and then change into jail garb, all while a corrections officer conducted a visual inspection of the admittee's naked body. Plaintiff maintained that the "change-out" procedure amounted to an unconstitutional blanket strip search in violation of the Fourth Amendment, as it required all individuals to go through the procedure, regardless of the crime for which they were charged and without the presence of reasonable suspicion to believe that the individuals were concealing weapons or contraband. Plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief, monetary and punitive damages, and class certification. Defendants, the County and the Sheriff, answered by generally denying all allegations.
Years of intense litigation, extensive discovery and motion practice followed. On March 25, 2005, the District Court (District Judge David N. Hurd) granted plaintiff's motion to certify the class and preliminarily enjoined defendants from using the change-out search procedure. Defendants' motion for summary judgment was denied. Judge Hurd also refused to allow defendants' insurance carrier to intervene in the case. Marriott v. County of Montgomery, 227 F.R.D. 159 (N.D. N.Y. 2005). Defendants appealed and the Second Circuit affirmed. Marriott v. County of Montgomery, 2005 WL 3117194 (2d Cir. Nov. 22, 2005).
After their attempt at summary judgment was denied, defendants moved to limit the plaintiffs' damages under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 1997e(e), and moved to dismiss the claims against the Sheriff and County officials in their official capacity. By order dated October 14, 2005, Judge Hurd refused to apply the PLRA to the case, but dismissed the official capacity claims. Claims against the individual defendants in their individual capacity remained, as did the claims against the County. Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment on plaintiffs' claims for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees was denied.
Plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment against the County and the Sheriff on the issue of liability and sought to make the Court's injunction permanent. They also requested an award of interim attorneys' fees for plaintiffs' counsel. Those motions were granted by Judge Hurd on April 12, 2006. Marriott v. County of Montgomery, 426 F. Supp.2d 1 (N.D. N.Y. Apr 12, 2006). That day, Judge Hurd also referred the case to Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles to make a final attempt at settlement. After protracted negotiations, the case was settled.
Under the Settlement Agreement approved by the Court on May 14, 2007, the County agreed to pay $2 million to settle all class claims. Of that amount, $600,000 (30%) was awarded to class counsel, and administrative fees and bonuses to named plaintiffs were paid, leaving $1.3 million to pay class claims on a pro-rata basis. Attorneys estimated 1650 class members existed and that each claimant would receive between $2000 and $3000 each.
We have no information indicating any post-settlement material activity occurred in the case.Dan Dalton - 01/29/2008