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Case Name Salem v. Michigan Department of Corrections PC-MI-0040
Docket / Court 2:13-cv-14567 ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On November 1, 2013, female inmates housed at the all-women Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Pittsfield Township, Michigan, sued the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) over its strip-search policies. Beginning in 2009, MDOC required each prisoner at Huron Valley to sit on a chair and ... read more >
On November 1, 2013, female inmates housed at the all-women Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Pittsfield Township, Michigan, sued the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) over its strip-search policies. Beginning in 2009, MDOC required each prisoner at Huron Valley to sit on a chair and spread her labia to allow female corrections officers to check her vaginal cavity for contraband after returning from off-site visits and after meeting with anyone during direct-contact visits. The plaintiffs alleged that the chairs were improperly sanitized, and that prisoners weren’t able to properly sanitize their hands before touching their genitals, exposing them to a heightened risk of contracting diseases through contact with the bodily fluids of other prisoners. They further alleged that the searches were carried out in view of other prisoners and male corrections officials. The plaintiffs brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan under 42 U.S.C. §1983. They argued that by requiring strip searches in unsanitary conditions and in view of other prisoners and male corrections officials, MDOC was deliberately indifferent to the health, safety, privacy and bodily integrity of inmates, in violation of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiffs asked the court for class certification to represent other prisoners who are, were, or will be confined at Huron Valley and who have been or may be subjected to spread-labia search. They further asked the court to: declare the spread-labia search technique unconstitutional; issue a permanent injunction requiring Huron Valley correctional staff to stop performing such searches; issue an injunction requiring Huron Valley to provide medical and mental health care to address ongoing harm being suffered by the plaintiffs, including mental anguish, trauma, and infections caused by the unsanitary conditions; award damages to the plaintiffs for harm suffered, including punitive damages where appropriate; and to award the plaintiffs reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. The case was assigned to Judge Paul D. Borman.

On May 1, 2015, the court granted in part and denied in part MDOC’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the plaintiffs’ claim for monetary damages was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. It also found that, because the warden had taken reasonable steps to avert the risks associated with the spread-labia search procedure (conducting an inquiry, taking action to make it more sanitary, and eventually ending it as a routine procedure in 2011), correctional staff had not violated the Eighth Amendment.

However, the court found that if the spread-labia searches were carried out under unsanitary conditions with other prisoners and male corrections officials watching, then the prison may have violated the prisoners’ Fourth Amendment right to privacy. The court further found that because the plaintiffs had also alleged that the spread-labia search was still being carried out, even if it was no longer officially a routine procedure, the plaintiffs could be entitled to prospective injunctive relief prohibiting corrections officials from continuing the practice. This meant that the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claim was sufficiently strong to survive MDOC’s motion to dismiss. On March 9, 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the court’s denial of qualified immunity to the prison’s warden, and dismissed MDOC’s appeal of the district court’s order denying the motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims for prospective injunctive relief. 643 Fed. App’x 526.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification on August 11, 2016, but the definition of their proposed class changed multiple times throughout the proceedings. In an effort to ensure the class was ascertainable, the plaintiffs proposed in their reply brief the following class definition: “current and former women incarcerated at WHVCF since 2010 who were eligible for offsite trips and contact visits and were thus, pursuant to the practice of WHVCF subject to the ‘chair portion’ of Defendants’ strip searches.” During oral argument, the plaintiffs proposed two subclasses: (1) women who were currently or had formerly been incarcerated at the relevant facility and were subject to the chair portion of the strip search in view of other people sometime between November 1, 2010 and November 1, 2013; (2) women who were currently or had formerly been incarcerated at the relevant facility and were subject to the chair portion of the strip search under unsanitary or unhygienic conditions between November 1, 2010 and December 16, 2011. The plaintiffs asserted that individuals in both subclasses had suffered compensable injuries.

In its decision on December 22, 2016, the court rejected the motion for certification as to both proposed subclasses. As to the unsanitary conditions subclass, the court denied certification because the Sixth Circuit had affirmed that MDOC was protected by qualified immunity. As to the subclass of inmates subjected to search in public, the court found that the class was ascertainable, but did not meet the adequacy of representation, numerosity, and typicality requirements for class certification. 2016 WL 7409953.

The parties were referred to Magistrate Judge Steven Whalen for a settlement conference on July 19, 2017. The court denied motions for summary judgment from both parties on August 24, 2018. On September 16, 2019, the court again denied class certification, and scheduled a bench trial (named plaintiffs only) for November 6, 2019.

On October 17, 2019 the plaintiffs, without explanation, dismissed their claims. The court closed the case on October 18, 2019.

Ryan Berry - 08/05/2016
Mackenzie Walz - 10/03/2018
Eva Richardson - 05/27/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Assault/abuse by staff
Personal injury
Sanitation / living conditions
Search policies
Sex w/ staff; sexual harassment by staff
Strip search policy
Medical/Mental Health
Hepatitis
HIV/AIDS
Medical care, unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Michigan Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Female prisoners at the Huron Valley Correctional Facility
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 11/01/2013
Case Closing Year 2019
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  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)
2:13-cv-14567 (E.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0040-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/18/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-MI-0040-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/01/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order [regarding motion to dismiss] [ECF# 21] (E.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0040-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/01/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification Without Prejudice [ECF# 56] (E.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0040-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/22/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Denying Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Qualified Immunity, and Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF# 90] (E.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0040-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/24/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order (1) Denying Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Class, (2) Denying Plaintiffs’ Motion for Leave of Court to File Additional Affidavits and (3) Setting a Bench Trial on Exhaustion of the Two Named Plaintiffs' Claims for November 6, 2019 [ECF# 101] (2019 WL 4409709) (E.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0040-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/16/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order of Court [ECF# 106] (E.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0040-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/18/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Borman, Paul D. (E.D. Mich.) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0040-0002 | PC-MI-0040-0003 | PC-MI-0040-0004 | PC-MI-0040-0005 | PC-MI-0040-0006 | PC-MI-0040-9000
Whalen, R. Steven (E.D. Mich.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-MI-0040-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Gorman, Teresa J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0040-0001 | PC-MI-0040-9000
Hardin, Kenneth J. II (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0040-0001 | PC-MI-0040-9000
Miller, Racine M. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0040-0001 | PC-MI-0040-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Barkman, Cori E. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0040-9000
Dean, Michael R. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0040-9000
Govorchin, A. Peter (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0040-9000
Soros, Allan J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0040-9000

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