Allegheny County to donate unclaimed money from strip-search settlement to Neighborhood Legal Services
By Adam Brandolph
Published: Saturday, April 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
More than $55,000 in unclaimed money from a class-action settlement that Allegheny County paid for illegally strip-searching people accused of minor crimes will be donated Monday to a Downtown nonprofit.
“Every penny counts,” said Christine Kirby, director of development for Neighborhood Legal Services Association, which provided free legal services to needy people. “It couldn't have come at a better time.”
The organization's budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year is $4.6 million, down from $5.5 million in 2010.
Twenty-five staff and several volunteer attorneys served 24,000 clients in 13,000 cases last year, Kirby said. The money from the settlement is equal to the annual salary of one staff attorney at the nonprofit.
“Whether the legal issues our clients face are housing, personal safety, are income or job-related, or deal with foreclosure issues, all of our clients are facing a loss of a basic life necessity,” she said. “We like to consider ourselves the last basic safety net — the last resort — for some people.”
The organization also provides free representation to the elderly and people filing Protection from Abuse orders, regardless of their income.
Allegheny County agreed to pay $3 million to plaintiffs who said strip searches at the jail violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches.
Lawyers received $1 million and the rest was divided among the 1,300 people held for misdemeanor or summary offenses and strip-searched between July 2004 and March 2008, each of whom received a check for $1,000, said Rob Pierce, a lawyer who represented the plaintiffs.
About 55 people never cashed their checks, Pierce said.
Neighborhood Legal Services Association, which receives most of its funding through organizations like the Legal Services Corp., the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network and local fundraising and grants, has reduced its staff by 17 percent during the last three years, Kirby said.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Obama hopes to replicate CCAC job training efforts across United States
- Would-be drillers quizzed by Allegheny County Council committee
- Crisis nursery in Larimer will fill a need, founders believe
- District attorney’s office takes paperwork from Wilkinsburg Middle School
- Foundations team to make offer for August Wilson Center
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- Ex-detective picked for Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board
- South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped
- Newsmaker: Jerry Weber
- Several Duquesne homes damaged in fire
- South Fayette parents express dissatisfaction with handling of bullying