On June 29, 2004, two females who, earlier, had been arrested for misdemeanors and now were represented, for civil case purposes, by private attorneys from Washington, D.C. and New York, filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the North ...
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On June 29, 2004, two females who, earlier, had been arrested for misdemeanors and now were represented, for civil case purposes, by private attorneys from Washington, D.C. and New York, 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. They alleged that the Schenectady County Sheriff's Department had an unconstitutional blanket policy and/or practice of strip searching all individuals who entered the Schenectady County Jail, including those charged with misdemeanors or held on civil matters, regardless of the crime for which they were charged and without reasonable suspicion to believe that the individuals were concealing weapons or contraband. Plaintiffs alleged that the policy violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and class certification for the thousands of individuals that suffered the same alleged indignities. Defendants, the County and the Sheriff, answered by generally denying all allegations.
The case was assigned to District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe.
A settlement conference was held on May 17, 2005 before Magistrate Judge Randolph F. Treece. The case was not immediately settled and discovery continued. Defendants moved to dismiss the claims of one of the named plaintiffs, Nichole McDaniel, alleging that she failed to appear for scheduled depositions on numerous occasions. Magistrate Judge Treece recommended that her claims be dismissed and that, should the case settle, the Court would decide whether to forfeit any class claim she had. McDaniel v. County of Schenectady, 2005 WL 1745566 (N.D. N.Y. Jul 21, 2005). In November 2005, the Court (Judge Gary L. Sharpe) entered an order staying all activity in the case pending ongoing settlement negotiations. The stay order was continued several times until the case was ultimately settled.
On November 29, 2006, the Court preliminarily approved the parties' Settlement Agreement and, later, set the matter for a fairness hearing on August 14, 2007. Final approval was granted on November 5, 2007, on all issues except attorneys' fees. Instead of awarding 26% of the settlement as fees, the Court awarded class counsel payment for the time spent at the hourly rates traditionally charged in their native jurisdiction. McDaniel v. County of Schenectady, 2007 WL 3274798 (N.D. N.Y. Nov 05, 2007).
Under the terms of the Settlement Agreement, as approved, Schenectady County agreed to institute an appropriate strip search policy and pay $2.5 million into a settlement fund to resolve all class claims. From the fund, the Court awarded class counsel attorneys' fees in the amount of $343,744.50 and reimbursement of pre-settlement litigation expenses of $10,053.31. The sum of $296,202.19 (the disputed amount of attorneys' fees) was ordered to be placed into an escrow account by the Settlement Administrator, pending further litigation. The Court approved $12,000 and $1,500 to class representatives for a total of $13,500 in incentive awards. Administration expenses and costs in the amount of $107,233.40 were granted. Dan Dalton - 02/26/2008