On August 1, 2001, a group of men claiming they were wrongfully searched filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs sued the City of Oakland, the Oakland Chief of Police, and Oakland police officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, alleged that the defendants violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights through a policy and practice of performing strip searches and body-cavity searches in public on only “reasonable suspicion” that people were hiding something illegal. The plaintiffs sought both injunctive relief and damages. This case had been related to eight similar cases pending in the Northern District of California.
On September 20, 2005, the plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint for class action and individual relief for injuries and violation of civil rights. Discovery proceeded for 18 months. On January 29, 2007, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. 2007 WL 219796.
The parties each moved for summary judgment, and the individual defendants sought qualified immunity from suit. On March 27, 2008, Judge Patel granted in part the plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment. Judge Patel issued a declaratory judgment that the OPD policies were unconstitutional in certain respects. She denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on liability and declaratory relief on the individual searches at issue. The strip-search policy was held unconstitutional because it provided too low a threshold for officers seeking to check for contraband on suspects in public places. The Court held that while reasonable suspicion is adequate to justify a strip search in the context of a detention facility when institutional security is a concern, it is “insufficient to justify a strip search in the field.” The police policy was held unconstitutional to the extent that it allowed strip searches of any kind in the field to be performed on less than probable cause. Judge Patel also found that an earlier version of the policy, enacted in 1998, was unconstitutional because it didn’t require that more invasive body-cavity searches be conducted by medical personnel. 621 F.Supp.2d 779 (N.D. Cal. 2008).
Litigation continued regarding the plaintiffs’ claims for liability and declaratory relief on the individual searches at issue. The plaintiffs renewed their motion for class certification, but on January 12, 2009, Judge Patel again denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. 2009 WL 88433.
On December 14, 2009, Judge Patel granted in part plaintiff Young’s motion for partial summary judgment on his Fourth Amendment claim for the unlawful strip search that defendant Bergeron conducted on plaintiff Young. Judge Patel declined to rule on the issues of qualified immunity and damages because factual disputes needed to be resolved first. 675 F.Supp.2d 992 (N.D. Cal. 2009).
The defendant Bergeron petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for a writ of mandamus ordering the district court to rule on the issue of qualified immunity. On January 13, 2010, the Ninth Circuit denied the defendant’s petition because there were still material questions of fact regarding qualified immunity, and the defendant had not asked the district court to rule on qualified immunity either by filing a motion for summary judgment or at trial.
On March 3, 2010, Judge Hall Patel ordered that two of the cases were related (C-08-4255MHP and C-04-4843MHP), but the other claims had been misjoined. Since these plaintiffs should not all be joining in the same action, Judge Patel gave the plaintiffs in those actions twenty days to drop all but one of the plaintiffs in each of these actions and file new actions as to each of the dropped plaintiffs. The plaintiffs did as ordered, and discovery and settlement negotiations proceeded for the next two years.
On April 18, 2013, the parties agreed to a settlement of injunctive and declaratory relief claims. The City of Oakland through the Oakland Police Department agreed to institute a new policy concerning strip searches in the field. The OPD will capture and retain all complaints about strip searches conducted in the field and all reports of such searches for a period of two years from the entry of this order. Those reports will be forwarded to the plaintiff’s counsel every six months and the court will maintain jurisdiction to ensure compliance for the two years. In the absence of any further proceedings, these related matters would be fully and finally dismissed with prejudice upon the passing of the two years.
The two years passed on April 18, 2015, and no further activity appears on the docket. Presumably the case is closed. Jessica Kincaid - 03/17/2014