University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Ernst v. Borough of Fort Lee JC-NJ-0014
Docket / Court 2:88-cv-03474-SRC ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On August 8, 1988, arrestees for a minor traffic violation who were subjected to a strip search filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the Borough of Fort Lee, New Jersey and violating officers in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Plaintiffs, represented by ... read more >
On August 8, 1988, arrestees for a minor traffic violation who were subjected to a strip search filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the Borough of Fort Lee, New Jersey and violating officers in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked for declaratory relief that the practice and the underlying state statute be found unconstitutional, as well as damages. Plaintiffs claimed a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, one of the plaintiffs claimed that they were held on excessive bail, and that they had been subjected to intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as racial discrimination.

On July 10, 1987, the plaintiffs, a man and a woman, were arrested for driving on a suspended registration. Officers spotted plaintiffs' car and saw suspicious items in it, and, upon checking the registration, stopped the car and arrested the plaintiffs. They found nothing in the car. Back at the station house, the plaintiffs were given an opportunity to post bail in the amount of $525.00. Plaintiffs were unable to post bail, and prepared to be sent to Bergen County Jail for detention. Pursuant to Borough of Fort Lee policy, they were subjected to a mandatory strip search prior to overnight detention. This practice was permitted under New Jersey Law (2A:161A-1). Plaintiffs subsequently filed this action, claiming that the search was unreasonable, that bail was excessive, that they were racially discriminated against, and that one plaintiff had been subjected to intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED).

On June 5, 1990, the Court (Judge Maryanne Trump Barry) in considering the defendants' motion for summary judgment, dismissed the IIED, 8th Amendment, and racial discrimination claims, on the grounds that the claims were brought under state tort law, which shielded the employees and borough from liability in this circumstance. (739 F.Supp. 220).

The Court denied summary judgment for defendants as to one plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim that a blanket strip search policy was unreasonable. Judge Barry was unpersuaded by the defendant's assertion that because the plaintiffs were given the opportunity to post bail, their strip search policy was not a "blanket" policy.

We have no further information about this case, except that it was closed five months later on December 19, 1990.

Blase Kearney - 04/29/2012


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Search policies
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Borough of Fort Lee
Fort Lee Police Department
Plaintiff Description Driver was arrested for suspended vehicle registration and was strip-searched prior to his incarceration at the Borough of Fort Lee on July 10, 1987.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Unknown
Source of Relief Unknown
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 1990
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies After Decision: Implementation of Judicial Decrees in Correctional Settings
Written: Oct. 01, 1977
By: M. Kay Harris & Dudley P. Spiller (Temple University)
Citation: (1977)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
http://law.duke.edu/journals/lcp
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:88-cv-03474-SRC (D.N.J.) 12/19/1990
JC-NJ-0014-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion 06/05/1990 (739 F.Supp. 220) (D.N.J.)
JC-NJ-0014-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Barry, Maryanne Trump (Third Circuit, D.N.J.)
JC-NJ-0014-0001 | JC-NJ-0014-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Weichsel, John L. (New Jersey)
JC-NJ-0014-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Kadish, Jeffrey M. (New Jersey)
JC-NJ-0014-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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