This lawsuit was filed on the heels of a separate case, Roberts v. Rhode Island (appearing in this database as JC-RI-0001). In Roberts, the Rhode Island District Court enjoined as unconstitutional the enforcement of a written strip and body cavity search policy then in effect at the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI) in Cranston, Rhode Island. See Roberts v. Rhode Island, 175 F.Supp.2d 176, 183 (D.R.I. 2000), affirmed by Roberts v. Rhode Island, 239 F.3d 107, 113 (1st Cir. 2001). On May 17, 2000 (the day the District Court issued its injunctive order in the Roberts case), Rhode Island abandoned the challenged policy. Thereafter, on May 30, 2000, the plaintiffs in this case, a group of individuals who had been arrested for non-violent, non-drug related misdemeanors and had been subjected to the proscribed strip and body cavity search policy before its abolition on May 17, 2000, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. Plaintiffs alleged that their Fourth Amendment rights were violated when they were subjected to the ACI's pre-May 17, 2000 blanket policy of conducting strip and body cavity searches of all new entrants to the facility (including misdemeanant arrestees), despite the absence of reasonable suspicion. Plaintiffs claimed that, as a result of the constitutional violations, they were entitled to monetary damages.
Interestingly, Craig L. Roberts, Sr., the plaintiff in the Roberts case, was also among the plaintiffs seeking monetary damages in this subsequently filed lawsuit. The District Court, at the request of Defendants, dismissed Roberts's claim on grounds of res judicata. The defendant jail officials then moved for summary judgment against the remaining plaintiffs on the ground that they were entitled to qualified immunity because, prior to the Roberts decision, it was not clearly established that the ACI policy violated the Constitution. The District Court (Judge Mary M. Lisi) agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Initially, a First Circuit panel reversed the District Court's judgment. Savard v. Rhode Island, 320 F.3d 34 (1st Cir. 2003). Upon granting rehearing en banc, however, a divided First Circuit reversed the panel decision and affirmed the District Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The en banc Court reasoned that the jail officials were entitled to qualified immunity since, at the time the searches were conducted (prior to the Roberts decision), it was not yet clearly established that the blanket strip search policy at issue was unconstitutional. Savard v. Rhode Island, 338 F.3d 23 (1st Cir.2003).
Plaintiffs subsequently sought but were denied Certiorari by the United States Supreme Court. Savard v. Rhode Island, 540 U.S. 1109 (2004). The case now appears to be closed.Dan Dalton - 02/12/2008