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Massachusetts Strip Search Class-Action Nets $1,162,468

Massachusetts has agreed to pay $1,162,468 to settle a class-action suit on behalf of 486 detainees who were strip searched without cause at the Franklin County Jail.
The sheriff maintained a policy of routinely strip searching all detainees who were admitted to the jail. The policy did not require individual, reasonable suspicion that the detainee possessed drugs, weapons or other contraband.

Gregory Garvey, Sr. was strip searched without reasonable suspicion pursuant to Franklin County’s blanket strip search policy. On March 28, 2007, Garvey filed suit in federal court alleging that the county’s strip search policy was unconstitutional. The case was certified as a class action on April 15, 2008, covering “all people strip searched without individualized reasonable suspicion ... at the Franklin County Jail” between March 28, 2004 and February 25, 2007. The district court appointed attorneys Howard Friedman and David Milton as class counsel under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(g).

On October 22, 2009, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the county’s blanket strip search policy was unconstitutional as to “people who were held while waiting for bail to be set or before a first court appearance after being arrested on charges or on warrants that did not involve a weapon, drugs, contraband, or a violent felony.”

The parties entered into a settlement agreement and determined that 486 people fit the class definition. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts agreed to pay $1,162,468 to settle all claims. One-third of that amount, or $387,489.33, went to attorney’s fees. Further, up to $42,498 in litigation expenses was deducted.

According to the settlement, the payment due “each Class Member will be reached by dividing the number of Participating Class Members into the balance of the Settlement Proceeds. Class Members will receive one payment each, of the same amount each, even if they were booked into the jail more than one time during the class period. The payment to Class Members will be capped at a maximum of $3,500.”

Class representative Garvey was awarded an additional $20,000 incentive payment “to compensate him for bringing this case, the time he spent on this case and his loss of privacy as a result of serving as the named plaintiff.”

If any settlement proceeds remain after these distributions, “half of such remaining monies will be paid, as an indirect means of benefitting injured Class Members who did not file claims, to Prisoners’ Legal Services” – formerly Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services – and “the other half of such remaining money will revert back to the Commonwealth.”

Class members were required to submit a claim form by October 11, 2010; the district court granted final approval for the settlement on January 14, 2011. See: Garvey v. MacDonald, U.S.D.C. (D. Mass.), Case No. 3:07-cv-30049-KPN.

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Related legal case

Garvey v. MacDonald