On April 29, 2003, a woman represented by a group of private attorneys from New York and D.C. law firms filed a class action suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, alleging that the Clinton County Sheriff's Department had an unconstitutional blanket policy and/or practice of strip searching all individuals who entered the Clinton County Jail, regardless of the crime for which they were charged and without reasonable suspicion that the individuals were concealing weapons or contraband. Plaintiff alleged that the unconstitutional strip searches were conducted pursuant to a written policy up to October 24, 2003. Plaintiff further alleged that while the County's written policy was revised on October 24, 2003, corrections officers ignored the revised policy and continued to carry out the practice of blanket strip searches. 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.
Extensive discovery and litigation followed.
On July 5, 2007, the District Court certified the case as a class action. The class consisted of all persons in either of two subclasses, A or B, who were placed into the custody of the Clinton County Jail after being charged with misdemeanors, violations, violations of probation or parole, traffic infractions, civil commitments or other minor crimes and were strip searched upon their entry into the Clinton County Jail pursuant to the policy, custom and practice of the Clinton County Sheriff's Department and the County of Clinton. Class A included those strip searched between February 28, 2003 and October 24, 2003, while Class B included those strip searched between October 24, 2003 and the date on which the Clinton County Sheriff's Department and/or the County of Clinton ceased, or was enjoined from, enforcing their unconstitutional policy. Mitchell v. County of Clinton, 2007 WL 1988716 (N.D. N.Y. July 05, 2007). A representative plaintiff was approved for class A and plaintiffs were granted leave, over defendants' objection, to name a representative plaintiff for class B. Mitchell v. County of Clinton, 2008 WL 85092 (N.D. N.Y. Jan. 07, 2008).
On October 8, 2008, the parties reached a settlement agreement. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants agreed to pay $1.15 million to the estimated 2,700 potential members of the plaintiff class.
On December 4, 2009, Magistrate Judge David R. Homer released a final order granting approval of the class action settlement for all members of the class who did not opt out to the settlement. In addition, the representative member of each of the two subclasses received specific amounts of compensation, with $25,000 for the representative of Class A and $10,000 for the representative of Class B. The plaintiffs were also granted $324,730.93 in attorney's fees. Kristen Sagar - 06/16/2009
Kat Brausch - 03/27/2016