On January 22, 2001, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against a police officer, the Chief of Police, and the City of Zebulon in the United States District Court in the Northern District of Georgia. Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, each claimed Defendant officer subjected them to a strip search and body cavity search in violation of the Fourth Amendment and searched them in an abusive and unreasonable manner.
According to the 11th Circuit Court Opinion, 407 F.3d 1272 (11th Cir. 2005), Defendant arrested Plaintiffs for non-drug crimes following a traffic stop on January 22, 1999. Defendant arrested the driver for speeding and refusing to take a Breathalyzer and arrested the passenger for an outstanding warrant. Defendant searched Plaintiffs' pockets and the car at the traffic stop. Defendant claimed he found a beer bottle cap in the driver's pocket and an open container of alcohol in the car, but Defendant did not show these items to his camera and Plaintiffs denied that Defendant found them.
While Defendant drove Plaintiffs to the jail, he told them he was the judge and jury in Zebulon and he would "send you niggers away for a long time." Defendant patted Plaintiffs down before entering the jail. The jailer concluded the warrant was not for the passenger, but Defendant refused to release the passenger. Defendant took the passenger to a supply closet where Defendant used racist language and ordered the passenger to undress, when the passenger refused to remove his underwear, Defendant placed him in a choke hold. Another officer pushed the driver into the room, hitting the passenger, and causing them both to fall. When the passenger tried to stand, Defendant hit him with a baton. Defendant then pulled the passenger's underwear down and used the baton to separate his butt checks and "stuck [him] in [the] anus." Defendant ordered the driver to remove his clothing and then placed "the [same] stick in [his] ass" and used the baton to lift both their testicles. Defendant did not clean the baton and he told Plaintiffs they would be raped in prison for twenty years.
On November 20, 2002, the District Court (Judge Jack T. Camp) granted summary judgment for the City of Zebulon and the Chief of Police. The Court granted summary judgment to the officer on Plaintiffs' false arrest claims, because the Court found that Defendant had probable cause to arrest the driver for speeding and had probable cause to arrest the passenger for a parole violation. The Court denied the officer's motion for summary judgment for Plaintiffs' claims of unconstitutional search and unconstitutional manner of search because the officer conducted the searches without reasonable suspicion and in an unconstitutionally intrusive manner.
Defendant officer appealed the Court's partial denial of summary judgment. Plaintiffs appealed summary judgment for the City of Zebulon and the Chief of Police.
On February 6, 2003, the 11th Circuit dismissed Plaintiffs' appeal because the Court had no appellate jurisdiction due to a lack of finality.
On November 18, 2003, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (Judges R. Lanier Anderson III, Stanley F. Birch, Jr. and Robert B. Propst) found that Defendant was entitled to summary judgment. Evans v. City of Zebulon, 351 F.3d 485 (11th Cir. 2003). The Court held: (1) Defendant had no reasonable suspicion that Plaintiffs concealed drugs to justify strip search and body cavity searches of Plaintiffs. (2) However, Defendant was entitled to qualified immunity as to the searches, because the law in 1999 was not clear that the strip searches were unconstitutional. (3) Defendant was entitled to qualified immunity as to Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claims about the manner of the searches. Although Defendant searched Plaintiffs in an unsanitary, "degrading," "humiliating," and "terrifying," fashion, no similar precedents gave Defendant fair warning that the manner of search was unjustified. Judge Propst concurred in part and dissented in part and wrote that Defendant should not have qualified immunity as to the manner of the search because Defendant's conduct was so egregious.
On March 31, 2004, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (Chief Judge James Larry Edmondson and Judges Gerald B. Tjoflat, Anderson, Birch, Joel F. Dubina, Susan H. Black, Edward E. Carnes, Rosemary Barkett, Frank M. Hull, Stanley Marcus, Charles R. Wilson, and William H. Pryor, Jr.) vacated the prior decision of the 11th Circuit (Evans v. City of Zebulon, 351 F.3d 485 (11th Cir. 2003)) and decided to rehear the case en banc. Evans v. City of Zebulon, 364 F.3d 1298 (11th Cir. 2004).
Prior to rehearing, Plaintiffs moved to disqualify Circuit Court Judge Pryor. On October 14, 2004, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (Chief Judge Edmondson) held that Judge Pryor's recess appointment was valid. Judges Barkett and Wilson dissented. Evans v. Stephens, 387 F.3d 1220 (11th Cir. 2004).
On January 10, 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court denied petitioners' motion to expedite consideration of the petition for writ of certiorari. Evans v. Stephens, 543 U.S. 1047 (2005).
On March 21, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court (Justice John P. Stevens) wrote that the court's decision to deny certiorari was not a decision that the President's recess appointment of Judge Pryor was constitutional. Evans v. Stephens, 544 U.S. 942 (2005).
On May 9, 2005, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (Judges Edmondson, Tjoflat, Anderson, Birch, Dubina, Black, Carnes, Barkett, Hull, Marcus, Wilson, and Pryor) on rehearing en banc, affirmed in part but reversed summary judgment for Defendant. The Court held: (1) Defendant violated Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights by strip searching them after arresting them without reasonable suspicion that Plaintiffs concealed drugs. Defendant had already searched their car, patted them down, and searched their pockets. (2) The totality of the alleged manner in which Defendant conducted the searches violated Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights because Defendant used unnecessary force, anal penetration, and terrifying language. Defendant did not sanitize the baton and searched Plaintiffs without privacy. (3) Defendant was immune from challenges to his decision to conduct the search because case law did not give Defendant fair notice. (4) Defendant was not immune from challenges to the manner of search because no reasonable officer could believe the manner of search was reasonable. Circuit Judges Carnes, Dubina and Hull wrote a concurring opinion. Circuit Judge Barkett concurred in part and dissented in part. Evans v. Stephens, 407 F.3d 1272 (11th Cir. 2005).
On August 31, 2005, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied rehearing en banc. Evans v. City of Zebulon, 163 Fed.Appx. 850 (11th Cir. 2005).
On January 4, 2006, the parties reached a settlement agreement for Defendants Police Officer, Chief of Police, City of Zebulon, Gallagher Bassett Services, Inc., and Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency to pay plaintiffs $300,000. Defendants also paid mediation costs but did not pay plaintiffs' attorneys fees. On February 24, 2006, Judge Camp dismissed the case.
Docket: 3:01-cv-00009-JTCShira Gordon - 03/12/2012