University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Powell v. Barrett JC-GA-0026
Docket / Court 1:04-cv-01100-RWS ( N.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On April 21, 2004, eleven former male detainees of the Fulton County Jail, represented by private attorneys, brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The plaintiffs challenged as unconstitutional the Jail's practices of (a) ... read more >
On April 21, 2004, eleven former male detainees of the Fulton County Jail, represented by private attorneys, brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The plaintiffs challenged as unconstitutional the Jail's practices of (a) conducting "blanket strip searches" of inmates entering and/or returning to the Jail without any individualized determination that such searches would reveal contraband; and (b) detaining inmates past their scheduled release dates ("over-detention"). The plaintiffs alleged that these practices had persisted at the Fulton County Jail for years and estimated that some 10,000 or more inmates were affected. The plaintiffs claimed that the practices were improper under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Georgia Constitution and common law. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages and class certification.

The complaint was amended four times. In addition to suing the former and current Fulton County Sheriffs, the plaintiffs sued Fulton County and the City of Atlanta, alleging that those governmental entities were liable because their police forces had entrusted arrestees to the Fulton County Jail with knowledge of the unconstitutional conditions that existed there. The plaintiffs alleged that three types of blanket strip searches occurred at the Jail: (1) blanket strip searches of arrestees as part of their point-of-entry booking into the Jail (AR Group); (2) blanket strip searches of detainees who posted bond or were ordered released at the Jail before their point-of-entry booking into the Jail (AL Group); and (3) blanket strip searches of detainees who returned to the jail from a court appearance after having been ordered released in state court (CR Group).

The defendants denied all allegations and sought dismissal of the action for failure to state a claim and under the defenses of both Eleventh Amendment immunity and qualified immunity. On July 5, 2005, the District Court (Judge Richard W. Story) granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motions to dismiss. The Court determined that: (1) the Sheriffs were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity for the monetary claims against them in their official capacity; (2) the Sheriffs were entitled to qualified immunity for the strip search claims; (3) the Sheriffs were not entitled to qualified immunity as to the over-detention claims; (4) the detainees adequately stated § 1983 claims against the county; and (5) the detainees lacked standing to seek injunctive relief against the county defendants. Powell v. Barrett, 376 F.Supp.2d 1340 (N.D.Ga. 2005). All parties appealed.

In two separate August 23, 2007, opinions, one published and one unpublished, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case to the District Court. In the published opinion, the Eleventh Circuit panel (Justice Susan Harrell Black) found that some plaintiffs could pursue their strip search claims against former Sheriff Barrett in her individual capacity. All of the strip search claims against current Sheriff Freeman, Fulton County, and the City of Atlanta were ordered dismissed. Powell v. Barrett, 496 F.3d 1288 (11th Cir. 2007). In the unpublished opinion, the Eleventh Circuit panel (per curiam) let stand the over-detention claims against former Sheriff Barrett in her individual capacity. All other over-detention claims were ordered dismissed. Powell v. Barrett, 246 Fed.Appx. 615 (11th Cir. Aug 23, 2007).

On February 4, 2008, the Eleventh Circuit, acting en banc, vacated the August 23, 2007 panel opinions and agreed to rehear the appeal. On September 4, 2008, the en banc Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion in which they ruled that a policy or practice of strip searching all arrestees as a part of the process of booking them into the general population of a detention facility, even without reasonable suspicion to believe that they may be concealing contraband, is permissible, so long as the strip search is no more extensive than the one upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979). The en banc panel then remanded the case back to the original Eleventh Circuit panel for proceedings in line with this decision.

The case was promptly remanded to the district court, which on March 27, 2009, dismissed the City of Atlanta, the State of Georgia, and Fulton County from the case and entered judgment in their favor. The case proceeded against other defendants.

On March 3, 2011, the court granted summary judgment to the defendants as to the strip-search claims, but denied the motion for summary judgment for the over-detention claims. Discovery continued regarded the over-detention claims.

On February 17, 2012, the court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the plaintiffs' over-detention claims. Since no claims remained, the court entered final judgment in favor of the defendants. 2012 WL 567065.

The plaintiffs appealed both grants of summary judgment for the over-detention claim and the strip-search claim. On March 7, 2013, the Eleventh Circuit (Judge Hull) affirmed the district court's holding that the defendant was entitled to qualified immunity as to the plaintiffs' over-detention and strip search claims. Specifically, the Eleventh Circuit held that 1) assuming without deciding that, when they were over-detained, the plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by jail employees, the plaintiffs failed to establish that sheriff was liable as a supervisor; 2) the jailers did not violate pre-trial detainees' Fourth Amendment rights by visually searching them for legitimate safety and penological reasons prior to admitting or readmitting them to the jail's general population; and 3) pre-trial detainees have no constitutional right, much less a clearly established right, to be held in a particular cell or a separate area of a jail and not be placed back in the general jail population. 511 F. App'x 957, 964 (11th Cir. 2013).

The plaintiffs petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case, but on November 4, 2013, the Supreme Court denied certiorari. 134 S. Ct. 513 (2013). The case is now closed.

Kristen Sagar - 07/12/2009
Jessica Kincaid - 03/18/2016


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
General
Over/Unlawful Detention
Search policies
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of Atlanta
Fulton County
Fulton County Sheriff
Plaintiff Description Separate Class Allegations for (1) Arrestee Strip Search Class, (2) Alpha Strip Search Class, (3) Court Return Strip Search Class, and (4) Overdetention Class
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
Case Studies After Decision: Implementation of Judicial Decrees in Correctional Settings
Written: Oct. 01, 1977
By: M. Kay Harris & Dudley P. Spiller (Temple University)
Citation: (1977)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
http://law.duke.edu/journals/lcp
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
05-16734-II (U.S. Court of Appeals) 08/23/2007
JC-GA-0026-9001.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
1:04-cv-01100-RWS (N.D. Ga.) 11/04/2013
JC-GA-0026-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint - Class Action 04/21/2004
JC-GA-0026-0002.pdf | Detail
First Amended Complaint - Class Action 07/01/2004
JC-GA-0026-0001.pdf | Detail
[Omnibus] Order [Including Denial of Class Certification] 01/13/2005 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0026-0006.pdf | Detail
Fourth Amended Complaint for Money Damages, Injunctive Relief, Preliminary Injunction, and Jury Demand - Class Action 05/25/2005
JC-GA-0026-0003.pdf | Detail
Order [Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss] 07/05/2005 (376 F.Supp.2d 1340) (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0026-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Answer by Defendants Barrett and Freedman to Fourth Amended Complaint 08/10/2005
JC-GA-0026-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying Motion to Dismiss] 03/07/2006 (2006 WL 6406441) (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0026-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Opinion 08/23/2007 (496 F.3d 1288)
JC-GA-0026-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion 08/23/2007 (246 Fed.Appx. 615)
JC-GA-0026-0013.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
[En Banc 11th Circuit Opinion] 09/04/2008 (541 F.3d 1298)
JC-GA-0026-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: U.S. Court of Appeals website
Order 03/03/2011 (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0026-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 02/17/2012 (2012 WL 567065) (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0026-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 04/05/2013
JC-GA-0026-0014.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Barkett, Rosemary (Eleventh Circuit)
JC-GA-0026-0007 | JC-GA-0026-0014
Black, Susan Harrell (Eleventh Circuit, M.D. Fla.)
JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013
Carnes, Edward Earl (Eleventh Circuit)
JC-GA-0026-0007
Forrester, J. Owen (N.D. Ga.) [Magistrate]
JC-GA-0026-9000
Hull, Frank M. (Eleventh Circuit, N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013
Martin, Beverly Baldwin (Eleventh Circuit, N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0026-9000
Ryskamp, Kenneth L. (S.D. Fla.)
JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013
Story, Richard W. (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0026-0005 | JC-GA-0026-0006 | JC-GA-0026-0008 | JC-GA-0026-0009 | JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-9000
Tidwell, George Ernest (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0026-9000
Ward, Horace Taliaferro (N.D. Ga.)
JC-GA-0026-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brantley, Overtis Hicks (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9000 | JC-GA-0026-9000
Claiborne, James Patrick (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0001 | JC-GA-0026-0002 | JC-GA-0026-0003 | JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-9000
Claiborne, William Charles III (District of Columbia)
JC-GA-0026-0001 | JC-GA-0026-0003 | JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9000 | JC-GA-0026-9001
Cunningham, Lynn E. (Wyoming)
JC-GA-0026-9000
Cunningham, Lynn E. (District of Columbia)
JC-GA-0026-0001 | JC-GA-0026-0003 | JC-GA-0026-0011
Dancy, Rolesia Butler (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013
DeWoskin, Daniel Eliot (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0001 | JC-GA-0026-0002 | JC-GA-0026-0003 | JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9000 | JC-GA-0026-9001
Estuar, Paul J. (California)
JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-9000
Litt, Barrett S. (California)
JC-GA-0026-0003 | JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9000 | JC-GA-0026-9001
Pekor, Charles B. Jr. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0001 | JC-GA-0026-0003 | JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9000
Spears, George Brian (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Baines, Tamara Nikki (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-9000
Barnes, Shakara Monique (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-9000
Belaga, Julianne N. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-9000
D'Haene, Kimberly W. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-9000
Fleming, John Howard (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9000 | JC-GA-0026-9001
Godfrey, Robert N. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-9000
Johnson, Coy J. Jr. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9000 | JC-GA-0026-9001
Lackland, Theodore Howard (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0004 | JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9000 | JC-GA-0026-9001
Lovett, William Jake Jr. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9000 | JC-GA-0026-9001
McFadden, Jamala S. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-9000
Mitchell, William T. (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-9000
Moore, Sidney Leighton (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9000 | JC-GA-0026-9001
Robbins, Richard Lance (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-9000
Roseborough, Teresa Wynn (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-0012 | JC-GA-0026-0013 | JC-GA-0026-9000 | JC-GA-0026-9001
Woodward, Karen Eleice (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-9000
Young, Dennis McRay (Georgia)
JC-GA-0026-0011 | JC-GA-0026-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -