Legal Notice
United States District Court for the Western District of Texas

NOTICE OF PROPOSED SETTLEMENT AND HEARING

If You Were Admitted Into The Bexar County Adult Detention Center From November 15, 2005 To April 9, 2009 For a Misdemeanor Offense And Were Strip Searched as Part of the Admissions Process, Your Rights Could Be Affected By A Proposed Class Action Settlement.

The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas authorized this notice. It is not from a lawyer. You are not being sued.

  • This is a class action lawsuit alleging that the Defendant, Bexar County, engaged in the practice of illegally strip searching individuals charged with a misdemeanor, violation of probation or parole, traffic infraction or other minor crime, or held on a civil matter, upon their entry into the Detention Center between November 15, 2005 and April 9, 2009. The Plaintiffs allege that these strip searches occurred despite there being no reasonable suspicion that Class Members were carrying weapons or contraband. The lawsuit charges that these practices violate the Constitution of the United States. The lawsuit does not include individuals who were charged with felony offenses at the time of their admission to Jail.
  • The County of Bexar who has been sued (the “Defendant”) denies these allegations and contends that its policies are permissible under the Constitution of the United States.
  • The settlement would entitle each Class Member to a share of a settlement fund that will range between $3 million and $5.5 million (after payment of administrative costs, an incentive award to the representative plaintiff, and attorneys’ fees), depending on the resolution of insurance coverage issues.
  • You may also get additional information by calling 1-888-448-2130 or by writing to Bexar County Settlement Administration, c/o The Garden City Group, Inc., PO Box 9667, Dublin, OH 43017-4967.
  • Your legal rights are affected whether you act or don’t act. Read this notice carefully.
  • Your rights and options - and the deadlines to exercise them - are explained in this notice.
  • The Court in charge of this case still must decide whether to give final approval to the settlement. Likewise, payments to class members will be distributed only if the Court grants final approval of the settlement and after any appeals are resolved.
YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS AND OPTIONS IN THIS SETTLEMENT:
Submit a Claim Form You must submit a Claim Form to receive payment under the settlement. You must submit a Claim Form by March 16, 2011 to receive any money.
Exclude Yourself If you exclude yourself from the settlement, you will not be bound by the settlement or judgment and will not be entitled to a cash payment. You will be free to pursue your claims against the Defendant. This is the only option that allows you to bring or be part of any other lawsuit against the Defendant in this case about the same legal claims that are advanced in this case. You must exclude yourself from the settlement by December 31, 2010.
Object If you do not exclude yourself, you may write to the Court about why you do not like the settlement or the request for legal fees and costs. You must send a written objection to the Court postmarked no later than December 31, 2010.
Go to a Hearing on January 12, 2011 If you submit a claim form or if you object, you may also ask to speak in Court at the Fairness Hearing (described below) about the fairness of the settlement or the request for fees and costs. You do not need to go to the hearing if you do not wish to. You do not need to go to the hearing if you submit a claim, or if you exclude yourself or if you object.
Do Nothing You get no payment. You give up your right to sue Defendant on these claims later.
  • Your legal rights are affected whether you act or don’t act. Read this notice carefully.
  • Your rights and options - and the deadlines to exercise them - are explained in this notice.
  • The Court in charge of this case still must decide whether to give final approval to the settlement. Likewise, payments to class members will be distributed only if the Court grants final approval of the settlement and after any appeals are resolved.

1. WHY DID I GET THIS NOTICE PACKAGE?

You or someone in your family may have been admitted to the Bexar County Adult Detention Center on a misdemeanor offense (such as a disorderly conduct offenses, traffic infractions, and/or civil commitments) from November 15, 2005 to April 9, 2009 and may have been subjected to a strip search.

You were sent this notice because you have the right to know about a proposed settlement of a class action lawsuit, and about your options, before the Court decides whether to approve the settlement. If the Court approves it, and after any possible objections and appeals are resolved, an administrator appointed by the Court will make the monetary payments that the settlement allows. You will be informed of the progress of the settlement. You should understand that the process of Court approval may take a good deal of time.

This package explains the lawsuit, the settlement, your legal rights, what benefits are available, who is eligible for them and how to get them.

The Court in charge of this case is the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, United States District Judge Fred Biery presiding. The case is called Jackson et al. v. County of Bexar, Civil No. SA-07-CV-928. PLEASE DO NOT CALL THE COURT. The persons who sued are called the Plaintiffs, and the political subdivision they sued, the County of Bexar, is called the Defendant.

2. WHAT IS THIS LAWSUIT ABOUT?

Plaintiffs claim in this class action lawsuit that the Detention Officers at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center illegally strip searched individuals upon their admission to the Detention Center who were charged solely with misdemeanor offenses (such as disorderly persons offenses, traffic infractions, and/or civil commitments) and not felony offenses, in violation of the unreasonable search provisions of the United States Constitution. Defendant denies that it did anything wrong, and has contended through this lawsuit that even if it did anything wrong, Plaintiffs and the Class Members are not entitled to any money as a result of being searched.

3. WHY IS THIS A CLASS ACTION?

In a class action, one or more people, called the Class Representatives (in this case, Julia Ann Jackson, Martin Martinez, and Erica Bernal) sue on behalf of all people who have similar claims. All of these people are a Class or Class Members. A class action resolves the issues for all Class Members, except for those who exclude themselves from the Class. United States District Judge Fred Biery is in charge of this class action lawsuit.

4. WHY IS THERE A SETTLEMENT?

The Court did not decide in favor of Plaintiffs or Defendant. Instead, both sides agreed to a settlement. That way, they avoid the costs and risks of a trial, and the people affected will get compensation. The Class Representatives and their attorneys think the settlement is best for everyone who is a member of the Settlement Class.

5. HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM PART OF THE SETTLEMENT?

You are a Member of the Settlement Class and may get benefits if you satisfy ALL of the following three conditions:

  1. you were a pretrial detainee confined to the Bexar County Adult Detention Center between November 15, 2005 and April 9, 2009;
  2. you were booked with a misdemeanor offense, misdemeanor violation of probation or parole, traffic infraction or other minor crime, or held on a civil matter, and not charged with a felony offense; AND
  3. you were subjected to a strip search before being sent to jail housing after being booked.

The Settlement Class includes the following two subclasses:

Subclass I: All persons in the Settlement Class, EXCEPT those in Subclass II.

Subclass II: All persons in the Settlement Class who were admitted on misdemeanor charges of narcotics, shoplifting and weapons violations.

The settlement does not cover individuals charged with felony offenses at the time of their entry into the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, anyone who entered the Detention Center after being convicted of (as compared to only being charged with) a crime, or anyone who entered the Detention Center but was not strip searched as part of the Detention Center’s booking procedure.

6. DO I NEED TO PROVE THAT I WAS STRIP SEARCHED, AND WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

In filling out the Claim Form, you will affirm, under penalty of perjury, that you were strip searched during the admission process at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center. If your name is not contained in Bexar County’s records, you may be asked to provide additional documentation before being allowed to participate in the settlement.

A strip search occurred if, during the admission process, you were ordered to remove or rearrange your clothing for a visual inspection of your undergarments, buttocks, anus, genitals or breasts. It is alleged that most of the strip searches at the Detention Center occurred in a small room off of the booking area, either in the Main Jail (for males) or the Annex (for females). A strip search did not occur if the removal or rearrangement of your clothing was reasonably required to render medical treatment or assistance. If you were searched in this manner when you were booked into the facility, you are a member of the Settlement Class and entitled to make a claim. You will need to provide an affirmation on the Claim Form confirming that one of these searches was conducted on you when you entered the Bexar County Adult Detention Center.

7. HOW DO I KNOW WHETHER THE OFFENSE FOR WHICH I WAS CHARGED UPON ADMISSION TO THE BEXAR COUNTY ADULT DETENTION CENTER QUALIFIES ME FOR INCLUSION IN THE CLASS?

You must have been brought to the Bexar County Adult Detention Center before a judge sentenced you (pre-adjudication) to be eligible to recover, and all of the charges must have been misdemeanor offenses. Everyone brought to the Bexar County Adult Detention Center pre-adjudication based solely on misdemeanor offenses and who was strip searched upon admission is eligible under this settlement agreement.

Texas law creates three distinct categories of offenses: Felonies (including State Jail Felonies), Misdemeanors (Class A and B), and Class C Misdemeanors (fine-only offenses with no confinement). Felonies are the most serious crimes and are punishable by incarceration in state prison. Felony offenses are handled by the District Court Judge and usually require indictment by a grand jury. Murder, burglary of a habitation, and sexual assault are examples of felony offenses. A felony offense may also include a charge of violating conditions of felony probation or parole. Anyone charged with a Felony upon admission to the Detention Center, even if they were also charged with Misdemeanors at the same time, is not a member of the Settlement Class unless they were, on another occasion, admitted to the jail solely on Class A, B, or C Misdemeanor charges.

Misdemeanors (Class A and B) are minor crimes and are, at most, subject to incarceration in a local jail. Misdemeanor offenses are handled by a County Court Judge and do not require indictment. Driving While Intoxicated and Theft $50-500 are examples of Misdemeanor offenses. A Misdemeanor may also include a charge of violating conditions of Misdemeanor probation. Anyone charged with a Misdemeanor who was strip searched on their admission to the Detention Center is a member of the Settlement Class.

Class C Misdemeanors are minor infractions or violations that are considered criminal conduct. While violations can result in brief incarceration in a local jail, they are generally resolved with a fine. Violations are handled by a Municipal Court Judge or a Justice of the Peace and do not require indictment. Disorderly Conduct, Public Intoxication, traffic violations and city code violations are examples of Class C Misdemeanors. Anyone charged with a Class C Misdemeanor (except a Misdemeanor charge of narcotics, shoplifting, and weapons) who was strip searched on his or her admission to the Detention Center is a member of the Settlement Class.

A civil commitment is an order from a non-criminal court, usually Family Court, committing an individual to jail. An example is an order of commitment putting a party in jail for failure to pay child support. An individual admitted to the Detention Center on a civil commitment and strip searched is a member of the Settlement Class.

8. I WAS ADMITTED TO THE BEXAR COUNTY ADULT DETENTION CENTER BUT I CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT MY CRIMINAL CHARGES WERE. HOW CAN I FIND THIS OUT, AND HOW DO I KNOW IF THE CHARGE WAS A MISDEMEANOR OR VIOLATION?

There are several ways for potential class members to determine the nature of their criminal charges. First, you can review your charging documents, which should reflect both your actual charges and whether the charges were a non-felony offense. If you do not have your charging document and remember the local court where you were prosecuted, the court clerk will be able to help you find these documents.

If you need additional help determining whether you are a Settlement Class Member, or if you have other questions, you can contact the Settlement Administrator at 1-888-448-2130.

You can still make a claim if you do not remember your criminal charges if you believe you are a member of the Settlement Class, but you may be asked for additional information.

9. I PLEADED GUILTY TO AN OFFENSE. HOW DOES THIS AFFECT MY RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE SETTLEMENT?

If you were admitted to the Bexar County Adult Detention Center solely on misdemeanor or other minor charges, as defined above, you can participate in the settlement regardless of how you resolved your charges, including if you pleaded guilty to those charges. This is provided that you were admitted to the Jail before being sentenced by a court. For most Settlement Class Members, this would mean that they were committed to the Bexar County Adult Detention Center after they were arraigned before a Judge. If you were sentenced before admission to the Jail (meaning you were committed after pleading guilty or being convicted at trial) you are not a Settlement Class Member.

10. WHAT IF I WAS ADMITTED TO THE BEXAR COUNTY ADULT DETENTION CENTER ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION DURING THE CLASS PERIOD? CAN I STILL PARTICIPATE IN THE SETTLEMENT?

Yes. Individuals who were admitted to the Bexar County Adult Detention Center on more than one occasion during the class period can be members of the Settlement Class and can recover money. They can only recover one payment, however, meaning that you will not be provided with extra payments if you were admitted to the Bexar County Adult Detention Center more than one time.

11. I AM STILL NOT SURE IF I AM INCLUDED.

If you are still not sure if you are included, you can ask for help. You can call 1-888-448-2130 and the Settlement Administrator or Class Counsel may help answer your questions.

 

THE SETTLEMENT FUND - WHAT YOU GET

12. WHAT DOES THE SETTLEMENT PROVIDE?

Defendant has agreed to pay at least $3,000,000.00 to resolve this litigation. The Defendant is currently engaged in an insurance coverage dispute with its excess insurance carriers relating to this case that may yield an additional $2,500,000.00 which, if successfully recovered, will also be paid to resolve this litigation. The outcome of this insurance coverage dispute cannot be presently known. All monies paid to resolve this litigation will be used to: a) compensate Settlement Class Members; b) pay for notifying Settlement Class Members and administering the settlement; c) pay incentive awards to the named Plaintiffs, Julia Ann Jackson, Martin Martinez, and Erica Bernal; and d) pay attorneys’ fees and expenses. A complete description of the settlement is provided in the Settlement Agreement. You can get a copy of the Settlement Agreement by calling 1-888-448-2130.

13. WHAT CAN I GET FROM THE SETTLEMENT?

The settlement provides that all Settlement Class Members who make claims will receive an equal pro-rata share of the Settlement Fund, depending on which Subclass they fall into. The total Settlement Fund will be at least $3,000,000.00, and possibly up to $5,500,000.00, with the addition of the $2,500,000.00 that may be paid if Defendant is successful in their insurance coverage dispute, minus the costs of notice and administration, incentive awards for the named Plaintiffs, attorneys’ fees, and expenses.

The money that you will receive from the Settlement depend on whether you are a member of Subclass I or Subclass II, as described herein.

Class Counsel anticipates, based on claims rates from other settlements, that members of Subclass I who make a claim on the Settlement will likely receive no more than $900 as their pro rata share of the initial $3,000,000 and their pro rata share of the $2,500,000 that MAY be paid if Defendant is successful in its insurance coverage dispute.

If you were ordered to pay fines, court costs or restitution by a Bexar County Judge, these amounts if still due may be subtracted first from any payment you ultimately receive, but will be capped at one half of a class member's prospective payment.

The Settlement Agreement provides that Subclass II will receive $100,000 of the Settlement Fund. In no event will any member of Subclass II will receive in excess of $100 in total as a settlement amount. Members of Subclass II are compensated differently than members of Subclass I because under Fifth Circuit case law, individuals arrested on offenses involving charges of narcotics, shoplifting, and weapons violations can be strip searched upon admission to Jail. All members of Subclass II were charged with these offenses.

All anticipated amounts are dependent on how many claims are received by the Settlement Administrator during the claims period, and are subject to change based the number of claims received. No amount is guaranteed.

 

HOW YOU GET A PAYMENT - SUBMITTING A CLAIM FORM

14. HOW CAN I GET A PAYMENT?

To qualify for a payment, you MUST send in a Claim Form. A claim form is attached to this Notice. Read the instructions carefully, fill out the form, sign it, and mail it postmarked no later than March 16, 2011. It is recommended that you send your Claim Form in by certified mail, return receipt requested or some form of overnight delivery that provides a record of delivery.

You may be asked for additional documents, and will be contacted in writing. You may want to send in your claim form by certified mail, return receipt requested, to ensure that it is received by the Settlement Administrator.

15. WHEN WOULD I GET MY PAYMENT?

The timing of settlement payments can be impacted by the pending insurance coverage litigation, and class members in Subclass I may receive two settlement payments. At a minimum, all Class Members will receive a settlement payment within 60 days after the District Court holds a final approval hearing, provided there are no appeals from the settlement.

The Court will hold a hearing on January 12, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. to decide whether to approve the settlement. If Judge Biery approves the settlement, there may be appeals. It is always uncertain whether those appeals can be resolved, and resolving them can take time, perhaps more than a year. Everyone who sends in a claim form will be informed of the progress of the settlement. Please be patient.

16. WHAT AM I GIVING UP TO GET A PAYMENT OR STAY IN THE CLASS?

Unless you exclude yourself, you are staying in the Class, and that means you cannot sue, continue to sue, or be part of any other lawsuit against Bexar County, its employees, or its elected officials about the legal issues in this case. It also means that all the Court’s orders will apply to you and legally bind you. If you sign the claim form, you will agree to release all claims that you have relating to having been strip searched.

 

EXCLUDING YOURSELF FROM THE SETTLEMENT

If you do not want a payment from this settlement, but you want to keep the right to sue or continue to sue Bexar County on your own about the legal issues in this case, then you must take steps to preserve these rights. This is called excluding yourself - or is sometimes referred to as “opting out” of the Settlement Class.

17. HOW DO I GET OUT OF THE SETTLEMENT?

To exclude yourself from the settlement, you must send a letter by mail saying that you want to be excluded from the Settlement Class in Jackson, et al. v. County of Bexar. Be sure to include your name, address, telephone number and your signature. You must mail your exclusion request postmarked no later than December 31, 2010 to Bexar County Settlement Administration, c/o The Garden City Group, Inc., PO Box 9667, Dublin, OH 43017-4967.

You cannot exclude yourself on the phone or by email. If you ask to be excluded, you will not get any settlement payment, and you cannot object to the settlement. You will not be legally bound by anything that happens in this lawsuit. You may be able to sue (or continue to sue) Bexar County in the future.

18. IF I DO NOT EXCLUDE MYSELF, CAN I SUE BEXAR COUNTY FOR THE SAME THING LATER?

No. Unless you exclude yourself, you give up the right to sue Bexar County for the claims that this settlement involves. If you have a pending lawsuit, speak to your lawyer in that lawsuit immediately. You must exclude yourself from this class action to continue your own lawsuit. Remember, the exclusion deadline is December 31, 2010.

19. IF I EXCLUDE MYSELF, CAN I GET MONEY FROM THE SETTLEMENT?

No. If you exclude yourself, do not send in a claim form to ask for money. But, you may sue, continue to sue, or be part of a different lawsuit against Bexar County.

 

THE LAWYERS AND INDIVIDUALS REPRESENTING YOU

20. DO I HAVE A LAWYER IN THIS CASE?

The Court approved Charles J. LaDuca and Alexandra Warren of Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca, LLP; Sam Lock, of the Law Offices of Sam Lock; Elmer Robert Keach, III of the Law Offices of Elmer Robert Keach, III; Gary Mason and Nicholas Migliaccio of Mason Law, LLP; Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project; and Kerrisa Chelkowski of the Law Offices of Kerrisa Chelkowski, to represent you and other Class Members. Together, the lawyers are called Class Counsel. You will not be charged for these lawyers. You have the right to have a lawyer of your choice represent you. If you do not want to be represented by Class Counsel, you may choose to have another attorney represent you.

21. HOW WILL THE LAWYERS AND THE CLASS REPRESENTATIVES BE PAID?

Class Counsel will ask the Court for attorneys’ fees and expenses as a percentage of the Settlement Fund and payments of $15,000 for each for the Class Representatives Julia Ann Jackson, Martin Martinez, and Erica Bernal. The Settlement Agreement provides that 30% percent of the Settlement Fund will be paid to Class Counsel as an award of attorneys’ fees and an award for the reimbursement of expenses. These amounts will be deducted from the settlement fund before payments are made to Class Members. The costs of administering the settlement will also be deducted from the settlement fund.

 

OBJECTING TO THE SETTLEMENT

You can tell the Court that you do not agree with the settlement or some part of it.

22. HOW DO I TELL THE COURT THAT I DO NOT LIKE THE SETTLEMENT?

If you are a Class Member, you can object to the settlement if you do not like any part of it. You can give objections why you think the Court should not approve it. The Court will consider your views. To object, you must send a letter saying that you object to Jackson, et al. v. County of Bexar. Be sure to include your name, address, telephone number, your signature, and the reasons why you object to this settlement. Mail the objection to the following three (3) addresses postmarked no later than December 31, 2010:

Mr. William G. Putnicki, U.S. District Clerk
U.S. District Clerk's Office
655 East Durango Blvd., Room G65
San Antonio, Texas 78206

Class Counsel for Plaintiff:
Mr. Charles J. LaDuca
Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca, LLP
507 C Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Counsel for Defendant:
Mr. Laurence S. Kurth
Clark Thomas & Winters, PC
2632 Broadway, 401 S
San Antonio, Texas 78215

PLEASE DO NOT CALL THE COURT.

23. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OBJECTING AND EXCLUDING MYSELF?

Objecting is simply telling the Court that you do not like something about the settlement. You can object only if you stay in the Class. Excluding yourself is telling the Court that you do not want to be a part of the class. If you exclude yourself, you have no basis to object because the case no longer legally affects you.

 

THE COURT’S FAIRNESS HEARING

The Court will hold a hearing to decide whether to approve the settlement. You may attend and you may ask to speak, but you do not have to do so.

24. WHEN AND WHERE WILL THE COURT DECIDE WHETHER TO APPROVE THE SETTLEMENT?

On January 12, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas will hold a fairness hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, 655 East Durango Blvd., San Antonio, Texas, in Courtroom Two to determine whether the Class was properly certified and whether the proposed settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable. The Court will listen to people who have asked to speak at the hearing. The Court may also decide how much to pay Class Counsel. This hearing may be continued or rescheduled by the Court without further notice. We do not know how long it will take the Court to give its final decision. PLEASE DO NOT CALL THE COURT.

25. DO I HAVE TO COME TO THE HEARING?

No. Class Counsel will answer questions the Court may have. But you are welcome to come at your own expense. If you send an objection, you do not have to come to Court to talk about it. As long as you mailed your written objection on time, the Court will consider it. You may also pay your own lawyer to attend, but it is not required.

26. MAY I SPEAK AT THE HEARING?

You may ask the Court for permission to speak at the Fairness Hearing. To do so, you must send a letter saying that it is your “Notice of Intention to Appear in Jackson, et al. v. County of Bexar.” Be sure to include your name, address, telephone number and your signature. Your Notice of Intention to Appear must be postmarked no later than December 31, 2010 and be sent to the Clerk of the Court, Class Counsel, and Defense Counsel, at the three addresses in question XXII. You cannot speak at this hearing if you excluded yourself. PLEASE DO NOT CALL THE COURT.

 

IF YOU DO NOTHING

27. WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO NOTHING AT ALL?

If you do nothing, you will get no money from the settlement. But, unless you exclude yourself, you will not be able to start a lawsuit, continue with a lawsuit, or be part of any other lawsuit against Bexar County about the legal issues in this case, ever again. Unless you exclude yourself, you need to file a claim to receive a monetary payment under the settlement.

 

GETTING MORE INFORMATION

28. ARE THERE MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE SETTLEMENT?

This Notice summarizes the proposed settlement. More details are in a Settlement Agreement. You can get a copy of the Settlement Agreement by writing to the Settlement Administrator at Bexar County Settlement Administration, c/o The Garden City Group, Inc., PO Box 9667, Dublin, OH 43017-4967.

29. HOW DO I GET MORE INFORMATION?

You can call 1-888-448-2130, write to the Settlement Administrator at Bexar County Settlement Administration, c/o The Garden City Group, Inc., PO Box 9667, Dublin, OH 43017-4967.

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