In May, 1982, Vivian Smith filed a class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging that the blanket strip search policy of the Montgomery County Detention Center, which required strip searching of all temporary detainees, violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The policy in question required strip searching of every person housed at the Detention Center, regardless of the offense charged or whether there was reasonable suspicion that the search would yield weapons or contraband. Represented by private counsel, Smith sought monetary damages, declaratory and injunctive relief, and class certification.
The District Court (District Judge Shirley B. Jones) issued a preliminary injunction on September 13, 1982, enjoining the practice of visual strip searches of temporary detainees, except upon probable cause to believe such detainee has weapons or contraband concealed on his or her person, and then only in private. Smith v. Montgomery County, 547 F.Supp. 592, 595 (D. Md. 1982).
The case was later reassigned to District Judge Joseph H. Young, who, by order dated October 26, 2003, dissolved the preliminary injunction for lack of standing, but certified the case as a damages class action, defining the class as: all persons who were 'temporary detainees' (held for 24 hours or less) at the Montgomery County Detention Center ("MCDC") since May 20, 1979, and were strip searched absent probable cause to believe that they possessed either weapons or contraband. Smith v. Montgomery County, 573 F.Supp. 604, 608 (D. Md. 1983). An appeal was taken but dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Smith v. Montgomery County, Md., 740 F.2d 963 (4th Cir. 1984). Defendants later moved for reconsideration and for summary judgment in light of subsequent Supreme Court decisions, Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984) and Block v. Rutherford, 468 U.S. 576 (1984). Judge Young denied reconsideration and summary judgment, finding that the Supreme Court cases cited by the defendants did not change the Court's finding that the blanket strip search policy of Montgomery County was unconstitutional. Smith v. Montgomery County, 607 F.Supp. 1303, 1306 (D. Md. 1985).
Later, Judge Young modified the class definition to reflect the adoption of a standard requiring "reasonable suspicion" of temporary detainees' possession of weapons or contraband (rather than the stricter "probable cause" standard) to justify strip searching, and redefined the class as follows: "all persons who were temporary detainees at the Montgomery County Detention Center since May 20, 1979, and were strip searched absent a reasonable suspicion that they possessed either weapons or contraband. The term temporary detainee is defined to include all persons arrested and held for 24 hours or less." Judge Young also ordered the defendants to produce a written statement to the Court for each temporary detainee arrested for a minor offense for which they believed that they had individualized grounds for a reasonable belief that the detainee was concealing weapons or contraband. The Court also entered an award of nominal damages in the amount of $200 for all members of the class whose Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Plaintiffs were awarded reasonable attorney's fees. Smith v. Montgomery County, 643 F.Supp. 435, 437 (D. Md. 1986).
The District Court later vacated the award of nominal damages and granted plaintiffs' request for a jury trial on their claims for compensatory and punitive damages by letter to counsel dated January 27, 1987. The Court also directed the parties to finalize the class membership lists. After the lists were finalized, both sides sought to modify the class definition, but the Court refused. Smith v. Montgomery County, Md., 117 F.R.D. 372 (D. Md. 1987).
We have no further information and do not know the ultimate disposition of the case.Dan Dalton - 02/12/2008