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Case Name Skurstenis v. Jones JC-AL-0017
Docket / Court 2:98-cv-02295-WMA ( N.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
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 ... read more >
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


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
General
Assault/abuse by staff
Search policies
Strip search policy
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action State law
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Shelby County
Shelby County Baptist Hospital
Plaintiff Description Individual plaintiff arrested for alcohol-related charges subjected to two separate strip searches, one for contraband upon entering Shelby County Jail, and one for lice just before leaving the facility.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
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 2001
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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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)
2:98-cv-02295-WMA (N.D. Ala.) 04/05/2001
JC-AL-0017-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order [Dismissing Shelby County] 10/13/1998 (N.D. Ala.)
JC-AL-0017-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Dismissing Shelby Baptist as a Defendant] 10/19/1998 (N.D. Ala.)
JC-AL-0017-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Decision 12/20/1999 (81 F.Supp.2d 1228) (N.D. Ala.)
JC-AL-0017-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Opinion [Denying Motion for S/J] 01/19/2000 (N.D. Ala.)
JC-AL-0017-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion 12/28/2000 (236 F.3d 678)
JC-AL-0017-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Opinion [Denial of Rehearing En Banc] 03/14/2001 (252 F.3d 444)
JC-AL-0017-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Order [Dismissing Case] 04/05/2001 (N.D. Ala.)
JC-AL-0017-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion 04/05/2001 (139 F.Supp.2d 1291) (N.D. Ala.)
JC-AL-0017-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Acker, William Marsh Jr. (N.D. Ala.)
JC-AL-0017-0001 | JC-AL-0017-0002 | JC-AL-0017-0003 | JC-AL-0017-0006 | JC-AL-0017-0008 | JC-AL-0017-0009 | JC-AL-0017-9000
Birch, Stanley F. Jr. (Eleventh Circuit)
JC-AL-0017-0007
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (M.D. Fla., Eleventh Circuit, Fifth Circuit)
JC-AL-0017-0007
Vining, Robert L. Jr. (N.D. Ga.)
JC-AL-0017-0007
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bennitt, Jeffrey William (Alabama)
JC-AL-0017-0007 | JC-AL-0017-0008 | JC-AL-0017-0009 | JC-AL-0017-9000
Bufford-Bennitt, Robyn G. (Alabama)
JC-AL-0017-0007 | JC-AL-0017-0008 | JC-AL-0017-0009 | JC-AL-0017-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Dodson, John W (Alabama)
JC-AL-0017-9000
Ellis, Frank C. Jr. (Alabama)
JC-AL-0017-0007 | JC-AL-0017-9000
Foley, Claire White (Alabama)
JC-AL-0017-9000
Lee, Mark W. (Alabama)
JC-AL-0017-0007 | JC-AL-0017-0008 | JC-AL-0017-0009 | JC-AL-0017-9000
Powell, Dorothy A. (Alabama)
JC-AL-0017-0007 | JC-AL-0017-0008 | JC-AL-0017-0009 | JC-AL-0017-9000
White, K. Claire (Alabama)
JC-AL-0017-0007 | JC-AL-0017-0008
Other Lawyers None on record

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