A settlement of the class action lawsuit against Shelby County and Tenaha involving allegations that law enforcement officials made illegal traffic stops is currently being reviewed by the judge over the case.
David Guillory, one of the counsel representatives for the plaintiffs, spoke recently with The Light and Champion about the case and the stipulations that have been laid out for Shelby County law enforcement officials and Tenaha officials named in the case.
The Consent Decree that has been established is set to remain in effect for four years. This time period was established through mediation between parties from both sides of the case. Law enforcement officials who hold the offices of those named in the case will be bound to a specific set of rules throughout that period of time.
“I believe it is standard in this situation, the defendants to the case were not just individuals, they were the offices that they held as well. What made this particularly necessary in this case I believe is that they had entered into inter local governmental agreements that created a monetary partnership that would divide funds,” said Guillory. “Those agreements were between the offices, that is the office of the constable, the office of the district attorney, the city of Tenaha. So, that wasn’t a contract between individuals, it was a contract between entities regardless of who is filling those shoes.
The total amount that is being settled on, including funds from the City of Tenaha as well as Shelby County, according to court document will pay plaintiffs’ attorney fees in the amount of $520,000.
“It’s litigation costs that is actual out of pocket expenses and it’s compensation for time put in to the case since 2008,” said Guillory.
The settlement agreement for the class action lawsuit only resolves the class action suit and does not halt any future lawsuits that may be brought by individuals seeking resolution of claims.
“What was negotiated and what was settled was the class action law suit. Any individual person that has a claim against the defendants in this case, or any other defendants has the right to file their own lawsuit. I won’t be involved in those lawsuits, but they have their own right to seek council and file lawsuits.”
The class action was actually instrumental in providing additional time for plaintiff’s to come forward, and start the process of filing their own lawsuit.
“One of the things that resulted from this is, the certification of a class had the effect of staying the limitation period for the individual lawsuits, so there is still a window of time in the future that individuals who were effected by what was happening in Tenaha could still file their own individual lawsuits if they choose to.
Numerous people are alleged to have been affected by the traffic stops that were made in Tenaha involving the officials named in the lawsuit, and many of them are likely to seek their own individual claims.
“I can’t give you an accurate number as to how many people in the class, but a reasonable estimate is several hundred people,” said Guillory. “The class representatives, the people that were named as representatives of the lawsuit, I think there’s six of them.”
Guillory feels that the rights of those he represented in the class action were truly infringed upon during the traffic stops. He is looking forward to their success with future lawsuits involving the incidents.
“I think that the individuals that I represented in the class action, the people that I actually got to know, were wronged and I hope that they are successful in their individual claims. Tim Garrigan is representing them in those individual claims and I hope they do well, because they deserve it,” said Guillory. “As far as putting an end to what I regarded as a terrible law enforcement practice, I think the relief we are getting from the court is adequate to satisfy anyone that was concerned about that behavior.”
The individuals that currently hold the offices that were alleged of wrongdoing have not been accused of wrongdoing, but will be the ones that are required to follow the stipulations set forth in the Consent Decree.
“The current office holders have done nothing wrong, and I hope with the safeguards that are being put in place, I hope they have long and fruitful experiences in those positions. There’s never been any accusations that the current office holders in any of those positions have ever done anything wrong. I know several of them, and I have the highest confidence in them.”