On February 11, 2004, two named plaintiffs filed this civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. In their complaint (as amended nine days later), the plaintiffs challenged the Cook County Sheriff's policy of strip searching all males following their return to the Cook County Jail from court after there was a judicial determination that there was no longer a basis for their detention. The plaintiffs also alleged that female detainees were not subjected to similar treatment, as they were placed in a holding cell after returning from court and processed out of the jail without being strip searched or re-entering the general housing units. The strip searches without reasonable suspicion and the differential treatment, the plaintiffs alleged, violated their rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs sought monetary damages, injunctive relief and class certification.
The defendants generally denied the allegations and contended that the strip searches were necessary, for there was no space in the jail to construct additional bullpens to house the discharged male detainees so that they would not be required to enter the housing units and undergo strip searches.
On November 22, 2004, the District Court (District Judge Elaine Bucklo) certified the case as a class action, with the class defined as follows: all male inmates who, on or after February 12, 2002, have been subjected to defendants' policy, practice and custom of strip searching, without reasonable suspicion that the inmate is concealing a weapon or other contraband, at the Cook County Department of Corrections, following their return from court after there had been a judicial determination that there was no longer a basis for their detention, other than to be processed for release. Bullock v. Sheahan, 225 F.R.D. 227 (N.D. Ill. 2004).
Discovery ensued and included substantial document production, depositions and experts. The defendants sought to preclude the testimony of one of plaintiffs' retained experts, Donald Henry. Mr. Henry was a registered architect specializing in the design of prisons and jails and was retained by the plaintiffs to inspect the jail and offer an opinion whether there was adequate space for the construction of additional bullpens to hold male detainees. Judge Bucklo denied the motion. Bullock v. Sheahan, 519 F.Supp.2d 760 (N.D.Ill. 2007).
The plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on the following four claims:
- The strip searching of all male court discharged persons and not all female court discharged persons violated the Equal Protection Clause.
- The strip searching of all male court discharged persons in large non-private group settings, with up to fifty inmates, while the female court discharged persons who opted to return to the housing divisions were afforded privacy, violated the Equal Protection Clause.
- The strip searching of all male court discharged persons not based upon reasonable suspicion that they were concealing contraband violated the Fourth Amendment.
- The manner in which the strip searches were conducted, in large non-private group settings, violated the Fourth Amendment.
Defendants moved to strike portions of plaintiffs' motion (as to the second and fourth claim), asserting that plaintiffs were adding new theories of liability not pleaded in their amended complaint. Judge Bucklo denied the motion to strike, but allowed defendants to conduct additional discovery as to those claims. Bullock v. Sheahan, 519 F.Supp.2d 763 (N.D.Ill. 2007).
On July 30, 2008, the district court (Judge Bucklo) granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. The defendants filed a motion for reconsideration, and on February 27, 2009, Judge Bucklo partially granted that motion with respect to the portions of the earlier order that granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs on their Fourteenth Amendment claims and on some of their Fourth Amendment claims.
On March 18, 2011, the court approved a proposed class settlement. The court retained jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the settlement. The defendants agreed to pay $1.4 million to class members and roughly $2 million in attorney's fees and costs. The defendants also agreed to pay the two class representatives $25,000 as "incentive awards" for serving as the representatives. However, the defendants later discovered that one of the class representatives had certified that he had no legal claims of any value during bankruptcy proceedings in 2010, so he couldn't receive this incentive award. The agreed with the defendants and issued an opinion on May 23, 2011.
Over the next two years, the defendants paid claims submitted by class members. The court oversaw the payments and denied late claims and other challenges. The court terminated its jurisdiction over the case on September 1, 2012.
Note: There was another (separate) strip search case against the Cook County Sheriff in the same District Court. That case, Young v. Cook County, 1:06-cv-00552, alleged an unconstitutional practice of strip searching all pretrial detainees upon their entry in the Cook County Jail for intake/booking. See JC-IL-0009
.Dan Dalton - 03/02/2009
Jessica Kincaid - 04/07/2016