Turns out Contra Contra County settled a jail strip search case just a tad too early.
CoCo agreed to pay $700,000 – plus $800,000 in attorney’s fees – to resolve a lawsuit over strip searches of juveniles. But after they signed the deal, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals sided with San Francisco and struck down an adult strip search case brought by the same plaintiff lawyer, Mark Merin. So CoCo asked Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero for an “expedited” case management conference to discuss the Ninth Circuit’s impact on its case.
Translation: "Let us wiggle out of this thing, dammit!"
But Spero approved the final settlement in Moyle v. Contra Costa County Friday.
Spero said it wasn’t clear whether the Ninth Circuit would have out-and-out killed the plaintiff’s case before him (since, unlike San Francisco, it dealt with juveniles), but it definitely would have made it much tougher. Still, a deal was a deal, and legally there wasn’t really a way to get out of it. Also, Spero signed off on the attorney’s fees: after some initial concerns, he said the dollars still came in well below lodestar, and that the attorneys did an excellent job.
Afterward, the county’s outside counsel was upbeat. “We’re happy. We entered into the settlement, we were bound by it, and had to stay within it,” said Bingham McCutchen partner Peter Obstier.
Part of his good cheer might relate to the adult strip search case, in which Senior Judge Thelton Henderson recently allowed CoCo to reopen class certification because of the Ninth Circuit ruling. Merin declined to comment on that matter.