JUVENILE CLASS ACTION ATTORNEYS
IN NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
Thanks to a class-action lawsuit spearheaded by Attorneys Kyle Mothershead, Mark Downton, and Brazil Clark PLLC, Rutherford County has given preliminary approval for a settlement of up to $11 million for its longstanding policy of illegally arresting and incarcerating juveniles. Based on their review of the County’s records, Plaintiffs’ have alleged that the County illegally incarcerated thousands of children over the course of the past several decades, and believe that some 1,500 children are eligible to make claims for compensation under the terms of the settlement.
The settlement, reached in mid-June 2021, capped 20-months of court-ordered negotiations between the county and attorneys for the youths. The settlement document has been filed in federal court for final approval.
Civil rights attorneys Frank Brazil and Kyle Mothershead urge those who believe they might qualify to take advantage of the 90-day coming-forward period to contact Brazil Clark, PLLC for free legal assistance in evaluating and submitting their claims for compensation. They can use the email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, call the firm, or come to the office in person.
BACKGROUND OF THE ARREST AND DETENTION POLICIES
According to the lawsuit filed in 2016, the county’s aggressive program of illegally arresting juveniles — known as its “Always Arrest” policy — dates back to a memo issued in 2003 by Donna Scott Davenport, the county’s juvenile judge. The memo was interpreted by law enforcement officials to mean that all children charged with any juvenile offense must be physically arrested and taken to the county’s detention center, even if state law mandated that the child be released with a summons or citation.
A separate policy at the County's detention center, the “Filter System,” allowed children to be detained despite a lack of legal grounds to do so. State data indicates that the Rutherford County detention rate was 10 times higher than anywhere else in the state. Though County did not use the “Filter System” label until 2008, the County’s practice of systemically incarcerating children illegally dates back to the early 1990s.
The class-action lawsuit also resulted in a preliminary injunction being issued by U.S. Middle District of Tennessee Chief Judge Waverly Crenshaw in 2017 that ordered the county to cease detaining children under the Filter System. In issuing this injunction, the judge said the Filter System policy “departs drastically” from ordinary legal standards.
Judge Crenshaw also noted that “children in Rutherford County are suffering irreparable harm every day.”
In addition to the financial compensation provided for, the settlement agreement now permanently bars the county from resuming its prior illegal youth arrest and incarceration programs.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include a juvenile who was part of a mass arrest in 2016 in which ten young children were arrested simply for being present when a six-year-old and a seven-year-old attempted to “fight” an eight-year-old. The arrested youths were all between 6 and 12 years of age, and many of them were arrested at school in front of their peers. Several of them were students at Hobgood Elementary, and after the case received significant public scrutiny the incident became known as the “Hobgood Arrests.” In a separate legal action, the family of one of the Hobgood students accepted an $86,500 settlement.
In 2019, in another separate legal action, the county and state settled for $250,000 in a case involving a boy with developmental disabilities who was locked up in solitary confinement. Employees at the youth detention center said that they chose “solitary confinement as a punishment because the youth reportedly hollered and flashed gang symbols in class.”
Civil rights attorney Kyle Mothershead said this class action settlement will provide “meaningful financial accountability” for the County and “a modicum of justice” for the affected youths. In total, the classes of juveniles are eligible to receive up to $7.75 million from the settlement.
THE BRAZIL CLARK PLLC TEAM
The Nashville firm of Brazil Clark, PLLC was instrumental in launching the legal action and negotiating the settlement. The lawsuit was originally launched by Kyle Mothershead, Mark Downton, and Wes Clark. More recently, Frank Ross Brazil has joined the litigation as Class Counsel alongside Kyle Mothershead and Mark Downton.
Frank Ross Brazil, a partner in the firm, is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. Attorney Brazil and his firm have been instrumental in filing numerous lawsuits in federal court for deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. That section, created by the Civil Rights Act of 1871, allows private citizens to sue the government for civil rights violations.
Section 1983 cases, as they have come to be popularly known, come into play when someone acting “under color of” state-level or local law authority deprives another of their rights under the U.S. Constitution and applicable federal statutes. Though Section 1983 is often associated with excessive police force, that is not its only application.
Frank Brazil has handled hundreds of criminal defense cases, and his zealous advocacy in the courtroom, along with his creative approach to plea bargaining, have led to numerous reduced charges, dismissals, and “not guilty” verdicts.
Kyle Mothershead serves in an “of counsel” capacity for Brazil Clark, PLLC. A former public defender in Nashville, Mr. Mothershead is considered one of middle Tennessee’s premier defenders of civil liberties. He is behind several federal lawsuits challenging unconstitutional police conduct, abuses at incarceration facilities, and other illegal law enforcement activities.
Mothershead has decried Rutherford County’s “Filter System” as an “illegal mass juvenile incarceration regime."
WHY YOU NEED SKILLED ATTORNEYS
With the Rutherford County settlement already filed in federal court, juveniles who were abused by the “Always Arrest” policy and “Filter System” need to come forward to claim their share of the award. They or their parents should contact Brazil Clark, PLLC, so they can add you to the growing list of the abused who are now entitled to a cash settlement for past injustices.
JUVENILE CLASS ACTION ATTORNEYS SERVING NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
At Brazil Clark, PLLC, the attorneys continue to represent those who have been abused or denied their rights. They pride themselves on taking on new and challenging cases and have the knowledge and experience to help you in whatever situation you face. If you’re in Nashville, or throughout Rutherford County, contact Brazil Clark, PLLC to pursue the justice you deserve.