On October 9, 2001, a group of pre-trial detainees represented by private counsel filed a class action civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, challenging the naked confinement policy of the Saginaw County Jail. Plaintiffs alleged that, under the policy, the County Sheriff and deputies placed detainees they found to be uncooperative or disruptive in administrative segregation cells, after being stripped naked. Plaintiffs further alleged that they were viewed while naked by jail personnel and inmates of the opposite gender. This policy, plaintiffs maintained, was unconstitutional. Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief, monetary damages and class certification. Over the course of the litigation, the complaint was amended six times.
Following years of extensive discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs also sought a preliminary injunction. The District Court (District Judge David M. Lawson) held that the County's policy violated due process and was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The judge ruled that the sheriff and individual officers, however, were entitled to qualified immunity on the federal claims and absolute immunity on the state claims. The Court declined to enter a preliminary injunction. Rose v. Saginaw County, 353 F.Supp.2d 900 (E.D.Mich. 2005).
Plaintiffs then moved for class certification or to add new individual plaintiffs to the case. Defendants opposed certification and sought leave to add a defense that plaintiffs' claims were barred by exhaustion requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Judge Lawson denied these motions, found that certification was inappropriate and that the PLRA did not apply to the case, as the plaintiffs were not confined when the suit was filed. Rose v. Saginaw County, 232 F.R.D. 267 (E.D. Mich. 2005).
In an attempt to broker a settlement, Judge Lawson referred the case to Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Duggan for a settlement conference and appointed former Wayne County, Michigan Circuit Judge Pamela Harwood as a facilitator to conduct a mediation session. Negotiations were broadened and the parties discussed a global settlement of four related cases - Rose v. Saginaw County, Brabant v. Saginaw County, Abner v. Saginaw County, and Whittum v. Saginaw County - in which there were approximately 94 plaintiffs. Settlement negotiations stalled and the defendants moved for sanctions and to dismiss the case, alleging that the individual plaintiffs failed to appear at settlement conferences and mediation. Plaintiffs maintained defendants' motion was without merrit, as plaintiffs' attorneys attended the various conferences with full authority to settle the case. Judge Lawson denied the defense motion by an unpublished order dated July 19, 2007.
The parties reached an agreement to resolve the individual plaintiffs' damage claims in Rose v. Saginaw County (case no. 01-10337) and two similar cases, Abner v. Saginaw County (case no. 05-10323), and Brabant v. Saginaw County (case no. 05-10030). Under the agreement, approved by Judge Lawson on January 11, 2008, a special case evaluation process was established to determine the monetary value of individual claims. Each plaintiff's claim would be evaluated by a three-attorney panel, consisting of a plaintiff specialist chosen by plaintiffs' counsel, a defense specialist chosen by defense counsel and the chairperson, retired state judge Harwood. The panel would recommend a settlement value for each claim, which would either be accepted or rejected by the parties. If the recommendation was rejected, the claim would be set for trial. The County agreed to pay plaintiffs' counsel a fee equal to thirty-percent (30%) of the amount of each case settled or tried to a conclusion, subject to a cap in the amount of $400,000 on the total amount of attorney's fees and costs claimed by the plaintiffs.
On March 10 and 12, 2008, several Plaintiffs accepted the court recommended settlement payouts, and their claims were dismissed with prejudice. Four plaintiffs rejected the settlement recommendations, went to trial and were awarded between $25,000 and $50,000 each by a jury on March 18, 2008. Judgment was entered on these jury verdicts on March 20, 2008. Due to the great amount of time between the initial complaint and the judgment, Plaintiffs moved for, and were granted interest on their damages dating back to the original complaints.
The remaining three Plaintiffs' claims were consolidated on March 20, 2008 to be included with James Abner, III v. Saginaw County, docket no. 05-10323, which was dismissed on February 17, 2010 for want of prosecution. Joshua Arocho - 06/28/2012