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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 Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On November 1, 2013, several 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 ... read more >
On November 1, 2013, several 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 a direct-contact visits. Plaintiffs allege 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 under unsanitary conditions 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. The plaintiffs asked the court for class certification to represent other prisoners who are, were, or will be confined in Huron Valley and who have been or may be subjected to the spread-labia search by Huron Valley correctional officers and staff. 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 spread-labia 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 plaintiffs for harm suffered, including punitive damages where appropriate; and to award plaintiffs reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

On May 1, 2015, District Judge Paul D. Borman granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Judge Borman ruled that the plaintiffs’ claim for monetary damages was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. He 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, Judge Borman did find that if the plaintiffs’ allegations that 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. Judge Borman 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, they might be entitled to prospective injunctive relief prohibiting corrections officials from carrying out the spread-labia search in the future. This meant that the plaintiff’s Fourth amendment claim was sufficiently strong to survive the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and that that portion of their argument would be further litigated. 2015 BL 127626

On March 9, 2016, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Borman’s denial of qualified immunity to the prison’s warden, and dismissed defendant’s appeal of Judge Broman’s order denying their motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ claim for prospective injunctive relief. 2016 WL 890614

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 his decision on December 22, 2016, Judge Borman rejected the motion for certification as to both proposed subclasses.

Judge Borman quickly dismissed the second subclass, reasoning that, since it did not allege a non-private strip search taking place in front of other prisoners, it was beyond the scope of this action after the Sixth Circuit affirmed that the Defendant was not protected by qualified immunity only with respect to private searches performed in the view of others.

Regarding the first proposed subclass, although Judge Borman found that the class was ascertainable, he ultimately denied certification because the plaintiffs did not meet the other certification requirements. Judge Borman found that the plaintiffs did not meet the numerosity requirement because the plaintiffs speculated only 110 individuals met the proposed class definition, but they did not provide any basis, rationale, or evidence for the alleged number. Additionally, the court found that the plaintiffs may not have been adequate representatives and that their claims may not have been representative of the proposed class. Because one of the plaintiffs had not stated in her complaint or affidavit that she was subject to the chair portion of the strip search in full view of others, and because neither plaintiff had proven she had exhausted all of her administrative remedies before filing suit, Judge Borman concluded neither were adequate representatives nor had claims typical of the class proposed for certification.

While Judge Borman referred the case to Magistrate Judge Whalen for a settlement conference on July 19, 2017, the parties pushed forward with litigation. On December 15, 2017, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and qualified immunity, and the plaintiffs filed a partial motion for summary judgment. Judge Borman denied both motions for summary judgment on August 24, 2018.

As of October 15, 2018, this case is ongoing.

Ryan Berry - 08/05/2016
Mackenzie Walz - 10/03/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Assault/abuse by staff
Conditions of confinement
Personal injury
Sanitation / living conditions
Search policies
Sex w/ staff; sexual harassment by staff
Strip search policy
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Michigan Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Female prisoners at the Huron Valley all-women correctional facility
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2013
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
Date: Spring 2008
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis Faculty)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

2:13-cv-14567 (E.D. Mich.)
PC-MI-0040-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/15/2018
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]
show all people docs
Judges Borman, Paul D. (E.D. Mich.) show/hide docs
PC-MI-0040-0002 | PC-MI-0040-0003 | PC-MI-0040-9000
Whalen, R. Steven (E.D. Mich.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
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
Dean, Michael R. (Michigan) show/hide docs
Govorchin, A. Peter (Michigan) show/hide docs

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