On Tuesday, May 28, 2019 a jury in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that Bucks County and the Bucks County Department of Corrections (collectively, Bucks County) willfully violated Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA) by unlawfully disseminating the Criminal Record History of 66,799 individuals that were booked in the Bucks County Correctional Facility between 1938 and 2013. As such, members of a class action lawsuit, Taha v. County of Bucks, No. 12-06867, have been awarded $1,000 in punitive damages per class member. The precise number of class members eligible for this award will be determined by the court at a later date.
The case, filed in 2013, involved the question of whether Bucks County broke the law when it disseminated criminal history on an “inmate lookup tool” located on Bucks County’s website from 2011-2013. The District Court granted summary judgment for the Plaintiff on liability, finding that the inmate lookup tool violated CHRIA’s prohibition against disclosing to the public confidential information about individuals who had been processed by the Bucks County facility, Taha v. County of Bucks, 2016 WL 1182095 (E.D.Pa. 2014). The court also certified as a class action for trial to determine whether Bucks’ conduct was willful under CHRIA. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the trial court’s certification ruling prior to trial, Taha v. County of Bucks, 862 F.3d 292, 303 (3d Cir. 2017).
“We are gratified by the jury’s verdict,” said Jonathan Shub of Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C., Co-Lead Counsel for the Class. “This case has always been about Bucks’ conduct in protecting the privacy of almost 68,000 people. The evidence at trial overwhelmingly proved that they dropped the ball in a reckless manner and the jury’s verdict sent a clear message to Bucks that this conduct will not be tolerated.”
The case, Taha v. County of Bucks, No. 12-06867, lasted five days before the Honorable Wendy Beetlestone, United States District Court Judge.
Theodore M. Schaer of Zarwin, Baum, DeVito, Kaplan, Schaer, Toddy, P.C., served as lead trial counsel. Jonathan Shub of Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C. and Alan Denenberg of Abramson & Denenberg, P.C. served as additional trial counsel. Robert J. LaRocca, Zahra R. Dean and Aarthi Manohar of Kohn, Swift also assisted at trial.
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