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Case Name Amaechi v. West JC-VA-0011
Docket / Court 99-783 ( E.D. Va. )
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On June 2, 1999, the Plaintiff, a 29-year-old woman, filed a complaint against three Defendants in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The Defendants were the arresting officer, the officer that supervised the arresting officer, and the Town of Dumfries. The Plaintiff sued ... read more >
On June 2, 1999, the Plaintiff, a 29-year-old woman, filed a complaint against three Defendants in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The Defendants were the arresting officer, the officer that supervised the arresting officer, and the Town of Dumfries. The Plaintiff sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Virginia state law. The Plaintiff alleged that the arresting officer's touching of her genitals in strip search fashion while arresting her constituted assault, battery, and unreasonable search. The Plaintiff was represented by private counsel, and the case was assigned to Judge Gerald B. Lee. The available court records do not reveal what relief the Plaintiff sought.

The Plaintiff was a 29 year-old resident of Dumfries and mother of five children. She lived with her husband and children. The Defendants were members of the Dumfries Police Department. One served as the supervising officer for the other, newly-commissioned officer. On August 12, 1997, the two officers arrested the Plaintiff at her residence pursuant to a valid arrest warrant for her violation of a local noise ordinance. The Plaintiff did not resist to the arrest, but asked if she may get dressed as she was wearing nothing underneath her night gown. However, the officers rejected this request. The arresting officer proceeded to search the Plaintiff before allowing her to enter the police car, running his hands over her hips and swiping across her groin area. The Plaintiff subsequently commenced this lawsuit, which was comprised of a seven-count complaint.

Between June 1999 and December 2000, the parties engaged in discovery.

In December 1999, all three Defendants moved for summary judgment. Judge Lee on January 13, 2000 granted their motion for summary judgment only for two Defendants: the Town of Dumfries and the supervising officer. He denied the motion with respect to the arresting officer. The arresting officer appealed this decision on January 24, 2000. The case was stayed pending the appeal.

It is important to note the reasoning behind Judge Lee's decision. In a February 28, 2000 memorandum, Judge Lee explained that his main reason for denying the arresting officer's motion for summary judgment was that a reasonable officer in the arresting officer's position would not have conducted a vaginal search on the Plaintiff. By conducting such an intrusive search, the officer violated the Plaintiff's clearly established rights. Consequently, Judge Lee held that the officer is not entitled to a defense of qualified immunity. 87 F.Supp.2d 556.

Thus, the arresting officer remained the only Defendant on this case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on January 1, 2001 affirmed the above decision of the District Court. The Court of Appeals also remanded for further proceedings. Circuit Judge Karen J. Williams affirmed that: (1) the Plaintiff sufficiently alleged deprivation of constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search; and (2) the Plaintiff's right to be free from public, sexually intrusive search was clearly established, thereby precluding summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. 237 F.3d 356.

The jury trial was set to occur in April 2001. However, on March 26, 2001, the Plaintiff withdrew all claims including those for attorneys' fee and cost. The records do not reveal why the Plaintiff withdrew all claims and whether there was a settlement. In 2001, Judge Lee dismissed the case with prejudice.

Lisa Koo - 05/25/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Search policies
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Dumfries Police Department
Town of Dumfries
Plaintiff Description A 29-year-old female arrested pursuant to a valid arrest warrant. During the arrest, the plaintiff was wearing a "light house dress" with nothing on underneath and was patted down in a strip-search like fashion in public.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Unknown
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Unknown
Source of Relief Unknown
Filing Year 1999
Case Closing Year 2001
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
http://law.duke.edu/journals/lcp
Date: Spring 2008
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis Faculty)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:99-cv-00783-GBL (E.D. Va.)
JC-VA-0011-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/26/2001
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion (87 F.Supp.2d 556) (E.D. Va.)
JC-VA-0011-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/28/2000
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (237 F.3d 356)
JC-VA-0011-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/09/2001
Source: Google Scholar
show all people docs
Judges Anderson, Joseph Fletcher Jr. (D.S.C.) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0011-0002
Lee, Gerald Bruce (E.D. Va.) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0011-0001 | JC-VA-0011-9000
Michael, James Harry Jr. (W.D. Va.) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0011-0002
Williams, Karen J. (Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0011-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Glasberg, Victor Michael (Virginia) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0011-0001 | JC-VA-0011-0002 | JC-VA-0011-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brandt, John J. (Virginia) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0011-0001 | JC-VA-0011-0002 | JC-VA-0011-9000
Corish, Robert S. (Virginia) show/hide docs
JC-VA-0011-0002

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