Case: Brecher v. St. Croix County, Wisconsin

3:02-cv-00450 | U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin

Filed Date: Aug. 9, 2002

Closed Date: 2003

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On August 9, 2002, two plaintiffs represented by private attorneys from Minnesota and Wisconsin filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The plaintiffs challenged the policies, practices, and customs concerning the blanket strip and visual body cavity searches at Wisconsin's St. Croix County Jail. Plaintiffs alleged that, pursuant to a policy adopted by the St. Croix County Sheriff's Department on …

On August 9, 2002, two plaintiffs represented by private attorneys from Minnesota and Wisconsin filed a class action civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The plaintiffs challenged the policies, practices, and customs concerning the blanket strip and visual body cavity searches at Wisconsin's St. Croix County Jail. Plaintiffs alleged that, pursuant to a policy adopted by the St. Croix County Sheriff's Department on May 5, 1996, all persons entering the jail were strip searched, whether or not reasonable suspicion existed that the searches would produce contraband or weapons. This policy, plaintiffs alleged, violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiffs sought monetary damages and class certification. The Sheriff and County denied all allegations.

On February 13, 2003, the District Court (Judge Barbara Crabb) certified the case as a class action, defining the class as: "All United States citizens arrested for misdemeanors or ordinance offenses unrelated to weapons or illegal drugs who were required by officers of the St. Croix County jail to remove their clothing for visual inspection of their genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or breasts between August 6, 1996, and February 27, 2001." Blihovde v. St. Croix County, Wis., 219 F.R.D. 607 (W.D. Wis. Feb 13, 2003). See Blihovde v. St. Croix County, Wis., 2003 WL 23095561 (W.D. Wis. Mar. 05, 2003) (regarding notice to class members). The Court approved two proposed class notices: one for adult class members and one for minor class members. Blihovde v. St. Croix County, Wis., 2003 WL 23200374 (W.D. Wis. Apr. 25, 2003).

Following notification of some 2,917 potential class members, the parties settled the case and submitted the proposal to the District Court for preliminary approval. Following a fairness hearing, Judge Crabb issued an order of final approval on February 2, 2004. Under the settlement, the Sheriff and County agreed to pay a total of $6.965 Million to resolve all class claims. Of that amount, over $1.3 Million were awarded to class counsel as attorneys' fees and costs. The named plaintiffs each would receive $35,000. The remaining $5.5 Million were divided among the 1,983 identified and responding class members per an agreed distribution scheme, with each getting just under $2800.

After the claims were paid, several individuals who had not received class notices filed letters with the court, which deemed them motions to reopen the case. The Court denied the motions, noting that although the individuals were not able to participate in the settlement, they were still free to file their own lawsuits. Brecher v. St. Croix County, Wis., 2004 WL 1196982 (W.D. Wis. May 26, 2004).

We have no information indicating other post-settlement activity in the case.

Summary Authors

Dan Dalton (2/5/2008)

People


Judge(s)

Crabb, Barbara Brandriff (Wisconsin)

Crocker, Stephen L. (Wisconsin)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Miller, Barbara K. (Wisconsin)

Moccio, Vincent J. (Minnesota)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Ford, Michele (Wisconsin)

Pollen, Raymond J. (Wisconsin)

Judge(s)

Crabb, Barbara Brandriff (Wisconsin)

Crocker, Stephen L. (Wisconsin)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Miller, Barbara K. (Wisconsin)

Moccio, Vincent J. (Minnesota)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Ford, Michele (Wisconsin)

Pollen, Raymond J. (Wisconsin)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Amended Class Action Complaint

Aug. 12, 2002 Complaint

Opinion and Order

Blihovde v. St. Croix County, Wisconsin

219 F.R.D. 607

Feb. 13, 2003 Order/Opinion

Order

Blihovde v. St. Croix County, WI

2003 WL 23095561

March 5, 2003 Order/Opinion

Opinion and Order

Blihovde v. St. Croix County, Wisconsin

2003 WL 23200374

April 25, 2003 Order/Opinion

Settlement Agreement

May 17, 2004 Settlement Agreement

Order

2004 WL 1196982, 2004 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 9870

May 26, 2004 Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Wisconsin

Case Type(s):

Jail Conditions

Special Collection(s):

Strip Search Cases

Key Dates

Filing Date: Aug. 9, 2002

Closing Date: 2003

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

All persons arrested for misdemeanors or ordinance offenses unrelated to weapons or illegal drugs and strip searched at the St. Croix County Jail between August 6, 1996, and February 27, 2001.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

St. Croix County Sheriff's Department (St. Croix County Jail, St. Croix), County

St. Croix County (St. Croix), County

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Equal Protection

Unreasonable search and seizure

Availably Documents:

Monetary Relief

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Damages

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Issues

General:

Search policies

Strip search policy

Affected Gender:

Female

Male

Type of Facility:

Government-run