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$360,000 Verdict Against Indiana Sheriff for Denying Prompt Court Hearings

An Indiana federal court awarded nearly $360,000 in a class-action lawsuit alleging the Allen County Sheriff’s Office violated arrestees’ due process rights by failing to bring them before a court within 48 hours.

The class consisted of 962 people who had been arrested on a weekend. According to the practice of then-Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries, those arrestees were not brought before a judge for a hearing within 48 hours as required by a 1991 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

After lead plaintiff LaTasha Myatt filed suit, Fries admitted that that practice was illegal. A consent decree was entered on behalf of the class members, and the case then went to a jury to determine the value of the plaintiffs’ loss of liberty while jailed over a weekend.

The district court instructed the jury to value the deprivation according to five time frames: 1) 0-12 hours, 2) 12-24 hours, 3) 24-36 hours, 4) 36-48 hours and 5) more than 48 hours. The jury heard testimony from fifteen class members over a five-day trial.

The January 2015 verdict did not adjudicate damages for individual class members, but instead awarded monetary amounts ranging from $200 for the first time frame to $1,100 for the fifth. The total jury award was approximately $360,000. On October 23, 2015, the court awarded $271,355 in attorney’s fees and $2,186.77 in costs against the county. The class members were represented by Fort Wayne attorneys Christopher C. Meyers and Ilene M. Smith. See: Myatt v. Fries, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ind.), Case No. 1:10-cv-00064-TLS-SLC. 

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Related legal case

Myatt v. Fries