On March 27, 2001, several arrestees, represented by private counsel, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, challenging the City of Newburgh's blanket policy of strip searching all individuals who entered the City Jail, regardless of the crime for which they were charged and despite the absence of 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 and sought a preliminary and permanent injunction, monetary damages, and class certification.
Plaintiff moved simultaneously for class certification and summary judgment. In response, Defendants requested that the court defer issuing a ruling on the question of liability until the class certification issue was resolved. The District Court (Judge Colleen McMahon) agreed to defer the liability issue, but granted class certification on the limited issue of whether Defendants maintained an unconstitutional strip search policy. Maneely v. City of Newburgh, 208 F.R.D. 69 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).
By order dated April 8, 2003, Judge McMahon denied Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, finding that (a) the City's written strip search policy was not unconstitutional on its face and that (b) fact issues existed as to whether the City had a policy of strip searching pre-arraignment detainees without determining whether reasonable suspicion existed to do so. Maneely v. City of Newburgh, 256 F.Supp.2d 204 (S.D.N.Y. 2003).
On December 22, 2003, the City of Newburgh filed a third-party complaint against its insurance carrier, United National Insurance, seeking declaratory judgment that the carrier would be responsible for covering any damages paid in the lawsuit.
The case was subsequently referred to mediation, and settlement negotiations ensued. The parties eventually entered into a proposed Settlement Agreement to resolve both the class action lawsuit against the City and the third-party complaint against the City's insurance carrier. The District Court (Judge Charles L. Brieant) preliminarily approved the settlement on March 29, 2005 and granted final approval on July 21, 2005.
Under the Agreement, the City agreed to pay up to $1,783,670.20 to settle all class claims. Of that amount, the Court awarded $550,000 (30.84%) as attorneys' fees and $33,670.20 (1.88%) for litigation costs. The Court also approved an incentive bonus of $25,000 to the class representative. After deducting attorneys' fees, litigation costs, and the incentive bonus, up to $1.2 million would remain for distribution to class members. The City also agreed to pay $324,000 for the costs of claims administration. The Agreement provided that each class member would receive $1,000 regardless of the number of strip searches they claimed to have been subjected to. If less than 1,200 claims were made, the remainder was to revert back to the City. If more than 1,200 claims were made, the $1,000 award would be reduced on a pro rata basis.
On September 6, 2005, the City of Newburgh secured voluntary dismissal (with prejudice) of its third-party complaint against United National Insurance Company. It is unknown whether the insurance carrier funded all or part of the settlement.Dan Dalton - 02/26/2008