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Case Name Smith v. Montgomery County JC-MD-0012
Docket / Court 82-1323 ( D. Md. )
State/Territory Maryland
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
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 ... read more >
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


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
General
Search policies
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Montgomery County
Plaintiff Description Temporary (less than 24 hour) detainees strip-searched at the Montgomery County Detention Center from 05-20-79 through 10-28-83 without reasonable suspicion to believe they possessed weapons or contraband.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 1982 - 1983
Case Closing Year n/a
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)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Memorandum and Order [Granting Preliminary Injunction] 09/13/1982 (547 F.Supp. 592) (D. Md.)
JC-MD-0012-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Opinion and Order [Dissolving Preliminary Injunction; Certifying Retrospective Damages Class] 10/26/1983 (573 F.Supp. 604) (D. Md.)
JC-MD-0012-0002 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
[Order Dismissing Defendant's Appeal] 08/09/1984 (740 F.2d 963)
JC-MD-0012-0006 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Memorandum [Denying Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration] 04/30/1985 (607 F.Supp. 1303) (D. Md.)
JC-MD-0012-0003 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum [Awarding Nominal Damages] 09/08/1986 (643 F.Supp. 435) (D. Md.)
JC-MD-0012-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum [Re: Plaintiff Class] 10/09/1987 (117 F.R.D. 372) (D. Md.)
JC-MD-0012-0005 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Jones, Shirley Brannock (D. Md.)
JC-MD-0012-0001
Young, Joseph H. (D. Md.)
JC-MD-0012-0002 | JC-MD-0012-0003 | JC-MD-0012-0004 | JC-MD-0012-0005
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ely, Clausen Jr. (District of Columbia)
JC-MD-0012-0001 | JC-MD-0012-0003 | JC-MD-0012-0004 | JC-MD-0012-0005
Flannery, Ellen J. (District of Columbia)
JC-MD-0012-0001 | JC-MD-0012-0002 | JC-MD-0012-0003 | JC-MD-0012-0004 | JC-MD-0012-0005
Genn, Edward L. (Maryland)
JC-MD-0012-0001 | JC-MD-0012-0002 | JC-MD-0012-0004 | JC-MD-0012-0005
Murasky, Donna M. (District of Columbia)
JC-MD-0012-0001
O'Rourke, Timothy J. (District of Columbia)
JC-MD-0012-0005
Spitzer, Arthur (District of Columbia)
JC-MD-0012-0001 | JC-MD-0012-0002 | JC-MD-0012-0003 | JC-MD-0012-0004 | JC-MD-0012-0005
Symonds, Robert H. (District of Columbia)
JC-MD-0012-0001 | JC-MD-0012-0002 | JC-MD-0012-0003 | JC-MD-0012-0004
Symonds, Elizabeth (District of Columbia)
JC-MD-0012-0001 | JC-MD-0012-0002 | JC-MD-0012-0003 | JC-MD-0012-0004
Defendant's Lawyers Evans, Jennifer (Maryland)
JC-MD-0012-0001 | JC-MD-0012-0003
Jeffries, Carole A. (Maryland)
JC-MD-0012-0001 | JC-MD-0012-0003 | JC-MD-0012-0004 | JC-MD-0012-0005
Levin, Suzanne (Maryland)
JC-MD-0012-0001 | JC-MD-0012-0003 | JC-MD-0012-0005
Tobin, Robert G. Jr. (Maryland)
JC-MD-0012-0001 | JC-MD-0012-0002 | JC-MD-0012-0003 | JC-MD-0012-0004 | JC-MD-0012-0005
Other Lawyers None on record

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