University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Bonitz v. Fair PC-MA-0021
Docket / Court 82-32 ( D. Mass. )
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
Nine female prisoners brought action against state officials, alleging violation of their constitutional rights in connection with a wide-ranging search conducted at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Framingham, a medium security prison. The plaintiffs were represented by: the ... read more >
Nine female prisoners brought action against state officials, alleging violation of their constitutional rights in connection with a wide-ranging search conducted at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Framingham, a medium security prison. The plaintiffs were represented by: the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union; Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services; the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; and private counsel.

In 1981, Framingham correction officials provided the local district attorney's office with information concerning possible drug violations, prostitution, gambling, and staff corruption at Framingham. The district attorney's office undertook an investigation, which involved interviewing informants, reviewing institutional records, and examining telephone records and newspaper articles. In December 1981, the defendants began planning an extensive search at Framingham and obtained a search warrant providing that the search would be conducted according to an operational plan. The plan provided for a search of the entire institution by a combined force of state police troopers and correction officers. The search occurred at approximately 3:00 a.m. on January 6, 1982, and included body cavity searches of inmates performed by police officers rather than medical personnel. Several officers touched the plaintiffs' body cavities during the searches, and did not change their gloves between searches of different inmates. Plaintiffs sought to impose liability on the defendants as supervisory officials responsible for the search.

Plaintiffs' claims were apparently under the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and fourteenth amendments. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Judge Rya W. Zobel) granted summary judgment for defendants on all but the fourth amendment claim; the court denied defendants qualified immunity for damages. Defendants appealed.

In a published opinion dated November 3, 1986, on an interlocutory appeal, the United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit affirmed the district court decision. In a decision by Judge Cambell, the court held that female prisoners had a clearly established Fourth Amendment right to be free from body-cavity searches in conjunction with a general security search of a prison, and thus, officials were not entitled to qualified immunity on claims involving body-cavity searches. Judge Coffin dissented. Bonitz v. Fair, 804 F.2d 164 (1st Cir. 1986).

On July 31, 1987, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Judge Zobel) issued a Memorandum of Decision and Order limiting the issues for trial to the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the execution of the search, thereby excluding the issue of the validity of the warrant authorizing the search. Bonitz v. Fair, 1987 WL 15880 (D. Mass., July 31, 1987). Judge Zobel also denied Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim, determining that there were issues of fact remaining as to whether the defendants' plan and preparation for the search necessarily led to the execution of the search in an unreasonable manner. Additionally, Judge Zobel denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the claim for qualified immunity since their actions did not violate clearly established law, finding that there were issues of fact yet to be decided, and denied defendants' motion for summary judgment as to plaintiffs' state law claims.

There is no docket available for this case, and there are no available documents other than the Court of Appeals decision and the July 31, 1987 Memorandum and Order discussed above. Thus, there is no indication of whether or how the case was resolved.

Theresa Spaulding - 07/16/2005


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
General
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Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Mass. Correctional Institution
Plaintiff Description Female prisoners alleging violation of their constitutional rights in connection with search of medium security prisoner
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Unknown
Class action status granted Unknown
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 1986 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Unknown
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Reported Opinion 11/03/1986 (804 F.2d 164)
PC-MA-0021-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum of Decision and Order 07/31/1987 (1987 WL 15880 / 1987 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 7593) (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0021-0002 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Judges Breyer, Stephen Gerald (First Circuit, SCOTUS)
PC-MA-0021-0001
Campbell, Levin Hicks (D. Mass., First Circuit)
PC-MA-0021-0001
Coffin, Frank Morey (First Circuit)
PC-MA-0021-0001
Zobel, Rya Weickert (D. Mass.)
PC-MA-0021-0002
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Fast, Robert E. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0001
Gertner, Nancy (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0001
Lambert Greenblatt, Ann (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0001 | PC-MA-0021-0002
Mizner, Judith (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0001
Reinstein, John (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0001 | PC-MA-0021-0002
Sherman, Robert (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0001
Stalus, Judith A. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Bellotti, Francis X. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0001
Bishop, John W. Jr. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0002
Brown, Roberta Thomas (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0001 | PC-MA-0021-0002
Conway, Maryanne (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0002
Cox, Dan (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0002
Ratcliffe, J. Richard (Rhode Island)
PC-MA-0021-0001
Shaughnessy, William (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0002
Zisson, Richard L. (Massachusetts)
PC-MA-0021-0001 | PC-MA-0021-0002
Other Lawyers None on record

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