The four-year class action suit 2:08-cv-288-JRG filed in 2008 against certain Shelby County law enforcement officials, City of Tenaha and Shelby County may be settled in the near future with the filing on Monday, Aug. 6 of the Consent Decree in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division.
The American Civil Liberties Union issued a press release on Aug. 3, 2012 that states in part: “The ACLU settled a class-action suit, pending court approval, against officials in Tenaha and Shelby County, where it is estimated police seized $3 million between 2006 and 2008 in at least 140 cases.”
The Associated Press release on the lawsuit, dated Aug. 4, 2012 states that the defendants in the suit have agreed to pay a total of $520,000) to the plaintiffs.
The Shelby County Commissioners Court at a special meeting on Friday, July 13 to offer $260,000 to settle the lawsuit:“Motion by Judge Campbell, seconded by Commissioner Rodgers to instruct our attorney to go back to the plaintiffs and offer $260,000 to settle this lawsuit and Precinct 4 Constable agrees to the Consent Agreement before the Court. The Court agrees to buy the video equipment and pay for the monitor. The Sheriff and the other four (4) Constables will be left out of the Consent Agreement. The motion is modified to include the Commissioners Court’s request that the District Attorney’s office participate in the Agreement. Motion carried with four ayes.”
The City of Tenaha voted in their Monday, July 16 council meeting to accept the Consent Agreement, as well. There was no announcement from Tenaha on the amount that they offered to settle the lawsuit. The draft settlement and consent decree, totalling 29 pages, contains provisions that dictate to Shelby County officials the terms under which the plaintiffs will agree to settle.
Provisions are required regarding traffic stops and practices incident to traffic stops:
• written policies and practices;
• appropriate video and audio recording devices to record both visually and orally the entirety of the stop and any “canine sniffs, searches, seizures, detentions and arrests;
• preserving unedited recordings for four years;
• written documentation of the stop; and
• reporting of stop to dispatch.
The requirement in 1.i.5 of the document states that all asset forfeiture revenue “incident to [pertaining to] traffic stops” shall be donated to non-profit organizations (specifically spelled out) or used for the audio and video equipment .
A Monitor would have to be selected to ensure that defendants are in compliance with documentation required. The Monitor would be responsible for the costs and fees of the Monitor.
Counsel for the plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ class are: Timothy Garrigan of Stuckey Garrigan & Castetter of Nacogdoches; David Joseph Guillory of Lone Star Legal Aid – Nacogdoches; Elora Mukjerjee of the American Civil Liberties Union; and Stephanie Kay Stephens of Nacogdoches.
Counsel for the defendant are: Robert Scott Davis of Flowers Davis LLP in Tyler; Chad Carlton Rook of Flowers Davis LLP in Tyler; Galen Robert Alderman Jr. of Zeleskey Law Firm, PLLC in Lufkin; and Walter Thomas Henson of Ramey & Flock in Tyler.
The consent decree must be approved by the federal court before it can become effective.