On December 17, 2002, a pre-trial detainee filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, challenging the Knox County Sheriff's policies, practices, and customs concerning the use of strip searches and visual body cavity searches in Knox County Jail. Plaintiff alleged that officers subjected detainees in their custody to strip and visual body cavity searches regardless of the crime charged and without having reasonable suspicion that the detainees possessed contraband or weapons, in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief, monetary damages and class certification.
The defendants denied those allegations and asserted that their policies, practices and procedures were at all times consistent with constitutional requirements.
The District Court (Senior District Judge Gene Carter) certified the case as a class action, defining the class as: All people who after November 19, 1996, were subjected to a strip search and/or visual body cavity search without evaluation for individualized reasonable suspicion while being held at the Knox County Jail: (1) after having been arrested on charges that did not involve a weapon, drugs, or a violent felony; or (2) while waiting for bail to be set on charges that did not involve a weapon, drugs, or a violent felony; or (3) while waiting for an initial court appearance on charges that did not involve a weapon, drugs, or a violent felony; or (4) after having been arrested on a warrant that did not involve a weapon, drugs, or a violent felony. Tardiff v. Knox County, 218 F.R.D. 332 (D. Me. 2003), affirmed by Tardiff v. Knox County, 365 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2004) (Circuit Judge Michael Boudin).
Discovery and litigation continued, with the Judge Carter issuing various discovery and procedural orders. See Tardiff v. Knox County, 224 F.R.D. 522 (D. Me. 2004) (holding that reinsurance agreements between self-funded insurance pool of counties and its reinsurers were subject to discovery); Tardiff v. Knox County, 226 F.R.D. 10 (D. Me. 2005) (plaintiff was required to identify class members from county's jail log sheets without the assistance of the County); Tardiff v. Knox County, 2006 WL 2827604 (D. Me. Sept. 11, 2006) (limiting the scope of testimony for defendants' expert witness); Tardiff v. Knox County, 2006 WL 2827600 (D. Me. Sept. 18, 2006) (denying plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration of a prior order); Tardiff v. Knox County, 2006 WL 2827603 (D. Me. Sept. 18, 2006) (order denying plaintiffs' motion for judicial determination of the number of people in the class); Tardiff v. Knox County, 453 F.Supp.2d 190 (D. Me. Sept. 21, 2006) (striking all of the parties exhibits for violating a court order directing preparation of consolidated exhibit list); and Tardiff v. Knox County, 2006 WL 3043223 (D. Me. Oct. 24, 2006) (approving substitution of the named class representative).
The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, which Judge Carter granted in part and denied in part. He held the County's blanket strip search policy unconstitutional, but said there were fact issues regarding the claims of several class members that needed to be resolved. He determined that the Sheriff was entitled to qualified immunity for searches of detainees alleged to have committed non-violent, non-weapons, non-drug felonies, but was not entitled to immunity for searches of detainees alleged to have committed misdemeanors. Tardiff v. Knox County, 397 F.Supp.2d 115 (D. Me. 2005). In Tardiff v. Knox County, 425 F.Supp.2d 159 (D. Me. 2006), Judge Carter clarified and denied reconsideration of his summary judgment order and denied a certificate of appealability in Tardiff v. Knox County, 451 F.Supp.2d 253 (D. Me. 2006).
On September 19, 2006, the Court bifurcated the remaining liability and damages issues. The case was ordered to proceed to determine liability (as to the class) and then would thereafter proceed as a non-class action with regard to determining individual amounts of recoverable compensatory and punitive damages. Tardiff v. Knox County, 2006 WL 2827556 (D. Me. Sept. 19, 2006). The parties then participated in a Judicial Settlement Conference with Chief District Judge George Z. Singal on September 29, 2006, and settled the case.
The initial Settlement Agreement was submitted to the Court for preliminary approval, but rejected. Dare v. Knox County, 457 F.Supp.2d 52 (D. Me. 2006). After several modifications, a third version of Settlement Agreement was preliminarily approved on December 18, 2006. Dare v. Knox County, 465 F.Supp.2d 14 (D. Me. 2006). In accordance with the revised Settlement Agreement, the Court entered an Injunction prohibiting Knox County, its Sheriff, and all jail employees from strip searching any persons charged with a crime that did not involve weapons, violence or controlled or scheduled substances during the jail admission process, unless the officer or person conducting the strip search had reasonable suspicion to believe the person does possess a weapon, controlled or scheduled substances, or other contraband. Dare v. Knox County, 465 F.Supp.2d 17 (D. Me. 2006).
Following a final fairness hearing on April 23, 2007, Judge Carter approved the settlement. Under the terms of the Agreement, the County agreed to pay the sum of $3 million for settlement of all class claims. From that amount, attorneys' fees in the amount of $750,000.00 (25%) were paid to class counsel, as well as litigation costs of class counsel, claims administration expenses, and class representative bonuses. The remainder was to be distributed equally to class members that timely submitted a claim, regardless of the number of times that they were booked into the jail and searched during the class period. See also Dare v. Knox County, 2007 WL 2071787 (D. Me. July 09, 2007) (approving $23,822.74 in litigation costs to class counsel).
The PACER docket reflects that in January 2008, Judge Carter ordered that unclaimed portions of the settlement fund went to a charity pusuant to the "cy pres" doctrine. We have no further information showing activity in the case.Kristen Sagar - 03/23/2009