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V.W. v. Eugene Conway

United States District Court, N.D. New York

August 28, 2017

V.W., a minor, by and through his parent and natural guardian DERECK WILLIAMS, R.C., a minor, by and through his parent and natural guardian SANDRA CHAMBERS, C.I., a minor, by and through his parent and natural guardian VERTELL PENDARVIS, M.R., a minor, by and through his parent and natural guardian KAREN RAYMOND, F.K., a minor, by and through his parent and natural guardian KASHINDE KABAGWIRA, and J.P., a minor, by and through his parent and natural guardian ALISSA QUIONES, Plaintiffs,
v.
EUGENE CONWAY, Onondaga County Sheriff in his official capacity, ESTEBAN GONZALEZ, Chief Custody Deputy of the Onondaga County Justice Center, in his official capacity, KEVIN M. BRISSON, Assistant Chief Custody Deputy, in his official capacity, and SYRACUSE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants.

          NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION Attorneys for Plaintiffs, CHRISTOPHER T. DUNN, ESQ. MARIKO HIROSE, ESQ. PHILIP L. DESGRANGES, ESQ. AADHITHI PADMANABHAN, ESQ. MARIANA L. KOVEL, ESQ.

          LEGAL SERVICES OF CENTRAL NEW YORK Attorneys for Plaintiffs, JOSHUA T. COTTER, ESQ. SAMUEL C. YOUNG, ESQ. SUSAN M. YOUNG, ESQ.

          SANFORD, HEISLER LLP Attorneys for Plaintiffs, AIMEE KRAUSE STEWART, ESQ.

          ONONDAGA COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF LAW Attorneys for defendants Eugene Conway, CAROLL. RHINEHART, ESQ.

          BOND, SCHOENECK LAW FIRM Attorneys for defendant Syracuse City, JONATHAN B. FELLOWS, ESQ.

          HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York, JOHN D. HOGGAN, JR., ESQ. Ass't United States Attorney.

          UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, KYLE SMIDDIE, ESQ. A TTICUS LEE, ESQ.

          NAACP - CNY CHAPTER LEGAL COMMITTEE Attorneys for Amici Curiae, LANESSA L. OWENS, ESQ.

          ORDER GRANTING FINAL APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT

          DAVID N. HURD United States District Judge.

         On September 21, 2016, the named plaintiffs commenced this action seeking relief on behalf of themselves and a putative class of fellow 16- and 17-year-olds being detained at the Onondaga County Justice Center (the "Justice Center") by defendants Onondaga County Sheriff Eugene Conway, Chief Custody Deputy Esteban Gonzalez, and Assistant Chief Custody Deputy Kevin Brisson (the "Onondaga County defendants"). According to plaintiffs, declaratory and injunctive relief was necessary to end the Onondaga County defendants' routine practice of imposing solitary confinement on juveniles being held at the Justice Center. Plaintiffs further alleged that the Syracuse City School District (the "School District"), which had contracted with the Justice Center to provide educational services to incarcerated juveniles, denied juveniles in solitary confinement the minimum educational instruction required by law.

         In a Memorandum-Decision & Order issued on February 22, 2017, plaintiffs' motions for class certification and for a preliminary injunction were granted while the School District's motion for summary judgment was denied. V.W. by & through Williams v. Conway. -F.Supp.3d- 2017 WL 696808 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2017). Thereafter, the parties entered into an interim settlement agreement and worked toward negotiating final terms that would provide significant relief to members of the now-certified class and subclass.

         On June 26, 2017, the parties jointly moved for preliminary approval of a final class action settlement agreement (the "Settlement Agreement"). This joint motion was granted on June 28, 2017 (the "June 28 Order"). At that time, the Court approved the parties' proposed Notice to the Class of the Settlement Agreement (the "Notice") and directed the Onondaga County defendants to distribute the Notice in accordance with the parties' proposed terms.

         The June 28 Order further provided an appropriate time period in which class members could lodge written objections to the Notice's terms. The June 28 Order also set Monday, August 28, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. as the date and time that a Fairness Hearing would be conducted on the record in Utica, New York to determine whether final approval of the Settlement Agreement would be granted. The parties were later informed that the Fairness Hearing would be adjourned until 2:00 p.m. to permit for a three-hour period during which any objectors would have an opportunity to make their presence known to the Court. In anticipation of the Fairness Hearing, the parties jointly moved for final approval of the class action settlement by submitting a memorandum of law, supporting declaration, and proposed order.

         On August 28, 2017, at 2:00 p.m., a Fairness Hearing was conducted on the record in Utica, New York. At that time, no class members had lodged any written objections to the Settlement Agreement. Further, no class member or any other party was heard to object to the Settlement Agreement either before or during the Fairness Hearing. Finally, a review of the parties' joint motion papers as well as their attached submissions revealed that the ...


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