In December 1985, inmates and former inmates at the Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility in Tennessee filed three lawsuits against the Tennessee Department of Corrections and the Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 in the United States District Court for ...
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In December 1985, inmates and former inmates at the Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility in Tennessee filed three lawsuits against the Tennessee Department of Corrections and the Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Male inmates and their wives or fiancés brought three damage actions, which were later consolidated, challenging visitation policies at the prison. Plaintiffs, represented by Rural Legal Services of Tennessee, alleged that their First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by strip and body cavity searches conducted on visitor plaintiffs, because they interfered with plaintiffs' right to freedom of association, they were done without probable cause, and they had a chilling effect on the inmate plaintiffs' rights to visitation.
On February 15, 1989, the district court (Judge James H. Jarvis) denied defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment, finding they were not immune from liability as government officials. The defendants filed an interlocutory appeal, which was granted.
On April 3, 1991, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Boyce F. Martin) partially affirmed the denial of summary judgment based on plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment claim that the searches violated their right to prison visitation, because according to Tennessee prison regulations, plaintiffs' visitation rights were mandatory and could not be removed without good cause. Long v. Norris, 929 F.2d 1111 (6th Cir. 1991). However, the court reversed the denial of summary judgment on the First and Fourth Amendment claims, finding defendants had qualified immunity based on plaintiffs' freedom of association and unreasonable search and seizure claims. The court reversed the denial of summary judgment based on the First Amendment claim because plaintiffs did not allege that the defendants conducted the searches with the intent to discourage association or as a way to retaliate against the association. Additionally, the court found that the prison visitors' constitutional rights to freedom from strip and body cavity searches absent probable cause were not clearly established at the time of the searches.
On October 7, 1991, the Supreme Court denied defendants' petition for writ of certiorari. Jones v. Long, 502 U.S. 863 (1991).Emilee Baker - 05/16/2006