On September 9 1998, a woman arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in U.S. District Court for the North District of Alabama challenging the strip search policy of the Shelby County Jail. That policy required that each inmate be strip searched by a same sex jail staff member before being placed in a cell or detention room.
Plaintiff alleged that following her arrest and booking at the Jail, she was ordered to disrobe, to turn and face the wall, and to squat and cough in the presence of a female officer. The following morning prior to her release, a male nurse assistant at the Jail took a blood sample, ordered to pull down her pants and searched her pubic region for lice. Plaintiff alleged that both searches violated her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
After discovery was conducted, defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims.
The District Court (Judge William M. Acker, Jr.) granted defendants' motion in part, denied it in part, and certified its order for appeal. Skurstenis v. Jones, 81 F.Supp.2d 1228 (N.D.Ala. 1999). Judge Acker held that the initial strip search was unconstitutional, but that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on the strip search claim. He denied the motion as to the lice inspection. Both parties appealed.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ( District Judge Vining) affirmed in part reversed in part and remanded the case. The Court found that the Jail's blank strip search policy of searching all inmates, without any reasonable suspicion, was unconstitutional. The initial strip search of plaintiff, however, was found to be justified as plaintiff was in possession of an unregistered handgun at the time of her arrest. Possession of a weapon provided the ``reasonable suspicion'' necessary to conduct a strip search. The Court also held that it was not inappropriate for medical personnel to conduct a strip
search of an inmate of the opposite sex, and determined that the lice inspection of plaintiff was therefore not unconstitutional. Skurstenis v. Jones, 236 F.3d 678 (11th Cir. 2000).
On remand,. the District Court (Judge Acker) dismissed plaintiff's remaining federal claims with prejudice and declined to further exercise jurisdiction over plaintiff's state-law claim for invasion of privacy and assault battery against the nurse assistant, dismissing those claims without prejudice. Skurstenis v. Jones, 139 F.Supp.2d 1291 (N.D.Ala. 2001).Dan Dalton - 08/08/2007