The money left over after fewer than expected claims were paid to Bucks County’s former prison inmates will go to more ex-offenders seeking to eradicate previous convictions.
After the county recently closed its class action lawsuits for violations of the privacy of nearly 10,000 detainees, officials learned the number of lawsuits was slightly lower than expected, District Attorney Joe Khan said during a commissioners’ meeting last week.
Bucks County estimated that $ 6 million of the $ 10 million would go to eligible class members, who each received $ 600. The final payout, however, was $ 5.92 million, district spokesman James O’Malley said.
The county will use the remaining $ 80,000 to continue its newly created extermination department in the public defender’s office for a second year – another result of the settlement reached last year in the nearly seven-year legal battle over the online inmate lookup tool of the district was achieved.
The county used $ 114,964 of its $ 200,000 contribution to create a new legal position to handle deletion cases for clients of public defenders. On Friday, the county was unable to immediately provide information about the number of people whose records were deleted as part of the program.
Commissioners used funds from the sale of the water and sewer system at his county-run Neshaminy Manor nursing home to the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority late last year to pay the nearly $ 6 million settlement claims.
As part of the settlement, the district also paid $ 4 million in court fees for the plaintiff’s attorneys, as well as a $ 30,000 incentive award to the lead plaintiff in the case.
Bucks County spent an additional $ 2.48 million in legal fees fighting the 2013 federal lawsuit, bringing the total costs related to the lawsuit to more than $ 16 million.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, the district did not have any liability insurance.
More on the Taha lawsuit:Bucks Jail Lawsuit Costs County $ 12 Million; over 10,000 ex-inmates will each receive $ 600
Still, the cost was much less than the $ 68 million potential damage the district suffered after a 2019 federal jury found it violated the state’s Criminal History Record Information Act known as CHRIA, when it posted inmate information and mug shots on a public website.
CHRIA prohibits non-law enforcement agencies, including county jails, from disclosing criminal records to the public and imposes a mandatory penalty of $ 1,000-10,000 for each violation.
Lead plaintiff Darouysh Taha’s attorneys, based in Sicklerville, New Jersey, estimated the county released proprietary information for 68,000 former inmates between 2011 and 2013 – some of whom had been incarcerated decades earlier.
Taha sued of the district after he learned his personal information and a mug shot appeared in the district’s inmate LookUp tool 11 years after his arrest was undone in 1998.
The lawsuit was classed as class action in 2016. The public inmate database still exists, but in 2013 all but the most basic inmate information was stripped.
The former Republican-run county government contested the court’s interpretation that CHRIA had deliberately violated its legal obligation to protect confidential information through âreckless disregard or indifferenceâ. The commissioners had originally vowed to appeal the jury award at the US Third Circuit.
But after the newly elected Democratic majority commissioners took control in January 2020, they directed the attorney and the outside attorney to settle the case.
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