D.C. Settles Suit Over Botched Forfeitures

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge approved an $855,000 settlement of a class action accusing D.C. police of failing to return cash seized from suspects it then failed to prosecute.
     Anthony Hardy and Donnell Monts brought the lawsuit in June 2009, challenging the district’s “Forfeiture Statute,” which allows police to seize all cash “allegedly related to a violation of the Controlled Substances Act.”
     The statute also requires the mayor of Washington, D.C., to give notice by certified mail. To retrieve their money, affected individuals must file a claim within 30 days. The district meanwhile has up to a year to file the civil forfeiture action.
     Hardy $127 in cash was taken from him after his arrest in December 2006, while Monts said police seized $823 in cash from him after his July 2006 arrest.
     The district allegedly “never provided notice of forfeiture of the money seized, nor brought a forfeiture proceeding within one year.”
     U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper approved the $855,000 settlement Friday, eight years after the filing of that lawsuit.
     The deal includes $2,500 for the class representatives. Another $14,000 will go toward attorneys’ expenses, while another $283,000 will go toward attorney’s fees. An additional $52,600 went to the Class Action Administration Inc., while $500,000 was set aside for approved claims.
     “The size of the payment pool and the percentage of class members who responded are on par with typical class action settlement awards,” Cooper wrote. “Nothing in the course of this litigation indicates a lack of general skill or efficiency on the part of plaintiffs’ attorney. To the contrary, counsel appears to have handled the case quite effectively.”
     The underlying lawsuit was filed by attorney Henry Escoto.

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