A young man in a hood holds on to a chain link fence

Juvenile Class Action Settlement Update

Brazil Clark Law Oct. 8, 2021

The long process of bringing to a close a policy by Rutherford County law enforcement officials of arresting and detaining children – known as the county’s “Always Arrest” policy – is at hand. On October 29, the $11 million settlement reached in June 2021 will accept its last claims.

If you are a victim of the “Always Arrest” policy, you need to come forward by that date. Contact Brazil Clark, PLLC in Nashville immediately.

Brazil Clark, PLLC is in the final stretch of the claims administration process, doing everything they can to reach as many class members as possible. They have done several media interviews, resulting in this recent Newschannel 5 story, as well as forthcoming pieces in Murfreesboro’s Daily News Journal, the Tennessee Tribune, and WPLN.

The firm has also publicized the settlement on the radio with a short interview on Nashville’s 92Q, as well as an hour-long interview with Murfreesboro’s WGNS “Simplicity Sunday” show, hosted by Angela Bingham. The team has also been “cold calling” the phone numbers on the list of those they believe are eligible for compensation under this settlement agreement.

At this point, they have talked to approximately 700 people, but a significant percentage of those they have talked to do not have viable claims due to Tennessee’s statute of limitations. However, Brazil Clark, PLLC continues to talk to anyone and everyone who thinks they may have a claim under this settlement, free of charge, in hopes of achieving the highest possible participation rate.

There are more than 1,000 people out there that the firm has not reached who are entitled to compensation under this settlement. The hope is that they contact the firm in advance of the October 29th claims submission deadline, before it’s too late.

Background of the Detention Program

The “Always Arrest” program started in 2003, when Donna Scott, the county’s juvenile judge, issued a memo that was interpreted to mean that once a summons was issued, the juvenile must be physically arrested and taken to the county’s detention center.

State data later showed that detention in Rutherford County ran 10 times higher than anywhere else in the state. The detention center also maintained its own policy of detaining children even when there were no legal grounds to do so.

A particularly egregious example resulted in a 2019 legal action that the county and state settled for $250,000 after a boy with developmental disabilities was thrown into solitary confinement because “the youth reportedly hollered and flashed gang symbols in class.”

Another separate settlement in 2016 involved an off-campus fight involving students 6 to 12 years of age from Hobgood Elementary. Police conducted a mass arrest of students for fighting and others for failing to break up the fight. One student sued and settled for $86,500.

The class action lawsuit undertaken by juvenile attorneys Frank Ross Brazil and Kyle Mothershead in 2016 led to a preliminary injunction by a federal judge in 2017, which ordered the county to cease its “Always Arrest” program because it “departs drastically” from customary legal standards. Chief U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw decried that “children in Rutherford County are suffering irreparable harm every day.”

The settlement reached in June means Rutherford County will provide up to $7.75 million to the 1,000-plus children whose rights were violated. Attorney Mothershead called it “a modicum of justice” that will nonetheless provide “meaningful financial accountability.”

About Brazil Clark PLLC and the Class Action Lawsuit

The Nashville firm of Brazil Clark, PLLC was largely responsible for initiating the legal challenge and seeing it through to the settlement. The firm is now working feverishly to ensure as many eligible youths as possible receive their share of the settlement.

The firm has long fought civil rights injustices using Section 1983 of 42 U.S.C. (United States Code). Section 1983 cases, as they’ve come to be known, allow private citizens to sue the government for civil rights violations.

Specifically, the code can be invoked when anyone acting “under color of” state or local law enforcement deprives someone of their rights under the U.S. Constitution and applicable federal statutes. Section 1983 actions are often taken against the use of excessive police force.

Attorney Frank Ross Brazil, instrumental in the Rutherford County case, has also handled hundreds of criminal defense cases. He is a partner in the firm.

Attorney Kyle Mothershead, who joined with Attorney Frank Brazil to spearhead the juvenile class action lawsuit, serves in an “of counsel” capacity with Brazil Clark, PLLC. He is considered one of middle Tennessee’s premier defenders of civil liberties, launching lawsuits involving unconstitutional police conduct, abuses at incarceration facilities, and other law enforcement abuses.

Juvenile Class Action Attorneys in Nashville, Tennessee

The team above is working vigorously to bring the class action settlement to a successful close, which means getting as many affected juveniles as possible to share in the award. Juvenile defense attorneys Frank Brazil and Kyle Mothershead urge those who think they might qualify to take advantage of the settlement and contact Brazil Clark, PLLC. Email, call, or come in person.