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New York Jail Settles Strip-Search Suit For $2.7 Million

On March 10, 2004, the parties involved in a class action lawsuit over unlawful strip-searches performed during intake at the Rensselaer County (New York) Jail agreed to settle the case for $2.7 million.

On various occasions between June 26, 1999 and July 1, 2002, the 11 named plaintiffs in this case were arrested for relatively minor charges including misdemeanors and probation and parole violations--none of which involved weapons or contraband possession. Upon arrival at the Rensselaer County Jail the plaintiffs, all men, claimed they were illegally strip-searched. Two of the men, Nathaniel Bruce and Paul Kahler, initiated a class action 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights lawsuit on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, against the sheriff and other jail and county officials.

Before the case went to trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, the parties reached a settlement that covered both the named plaintiffs and the class of persons who were strip-searched at the jail between June 26, 1999, and July 1, 2002, after being arrested for traffic infractions, parole or probation violations, misdemeanors, and civil commitments.

According to the agreement, the County would pay $2.7 million into a settlement fund to cover a $1,000 award to each qualifying class member who filed a claim and $580,000 in attorney fees.

The County also agreed to revise their strip-search policy and submit it to plaintiffs' counsel for review; incorporate the new policy into the jail's employee manual; post a copy the new policy conspicuously in the jail's booking area and training room; make a copy of the policy available to all jail employees; and train all current and new jailers on the policy. The County further agreed that the new policy would require, among other things, that strip-searches be performed either in private or in the presence of jailers of the same sex.

Plaintiffs were represented by Gary Mason and Charles Schneider of The Mason Law Firm in Washington, D.C.; Bruce Menken and Jason Rozger of the New York, New York, law firm Beranbaum, Menken, Ben-Asher, & Bierman; and Elmer Keach III of Albany, New York. See: Bruce v. County of Rensselaer, USDC ND NY, Case No. 02 Civ. 0847, and Kahler v. County of Rensselaer, USDC ND NY, Case No. 03 Civ. 1324.

Source: VerdictSearch New York"

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Related legal cases

Bruce v. County of Rensselaer

No copy of the settlement is available.

Kahler v. County of Rensselear