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Court Initially Approves Settlement of Longstanding DC Jail Class-Action

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Court Initially Approves Settlement of Longstanding DC Jail Class-Action

CONTACT:  
Ted Gest
Public Information Officer
202-727-6283
ted.gest@dc.gov

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A federal judge has given preliminary approval to a settlement of claims filed in 2006 by former D.C. Jail inmates involving alleged unconstitutional detention past the date and time of their scheduled release and impermissible strip searches when they returned to the jail from court hearings, D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said today. A judge has ruled that the District largely resolved the problems by February 2008.

The settlement provides a maximum total of $2.9 million to former inmates. Senior United States District Judge Royce C. Lamberth said in an order November 8 in the long-running case of Barnes v. District of Columbia that the proposed resolution was “fair, reasonable, and adequate.”

Earlier stages of the litigation had resulted in court rulings involving potential liability for the District for various time periods, and a jury verdict in March 2013 absolved the District for a 14-month period in 2007-8. Without a settlement, a second trial would have been necessary to determine an amount of damages the District would have to pay.

Under the settlement, former inmates would receive payments based on the length of their overdetention. The settlement also reflects $2 million in fees to plaintiffs’ attorneys, and $475,000 for  the  D.C. Department of Corrections to continue improvements in the processing of inmates for release.  Other expenses, including the administration of notice to the class, bring the total potential settlement to $ 6.2 million.

A notice of the proposed settlement will go to former inmates during the time period involved, who will be able to file claims for compensation or object to the settlement’s terms. The court will hear any objections to the settlement on March 17, 2014.  Any funds that are not claimed by former inmates will return to the District’s general operating budget.

“This settlement provides compensation to inmates while it acknowledges the considerable progress the District’s Department of Corrections has made in eliminating the problem of overdetention,” Attorney General Nathan said. “It minimizes the potential impact of a second trial on public funds, while reinvesting in systems to make sure all detainees are released at the correct time. We are pleased that the resolution of the case brings finality to a complicated and long-running legal battle, with a favorable outcome for District taxpayers, the Department of Corrections, and former jail inmates.”

The Attorney General commended Deputy Attorney General Ellen Efros, Section Chief Grace Graham, and Assistant Attorneys General Keith Parsons and Andrew Saindon for their work on the case.