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Case Name Pitney v. City of Chester PN-PA-0019
Docket / Court 2:19-cv-00799-PD ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Policing
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
The plaintiff in this case was strip-searched after being arrested for a minor offense. He was not suspected of possessing drugs or weapons, and he was ultimately not charged with any crime, but the City of Chester's policy allowed police to conduct strip searches on anyone they arrested. In this ... read more >
The plaintiff in this case was strip-searched after being arrested for a minor offense. He was not suspected of possessing drugs or weapons, and he was ultimately not charged with any crime, but the City of Chester's policy allowed police to conduct strip searches on anyone they arrested. In this lawsuit, filed by private counsel on February 25, 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the plaintiff named the City of Chester and three police officers as defendants. He alleged that under 42 U.S.C. §1983 the city had violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as his rights under Pennsylvania law. He sought compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs. The case was assigned to Judge Robert F. Kelly.

On May 1, 2019, the plaintiff dismissed the majority of the claims in his complaint, stipulating that his Monell claim against the city would be limited to its policy and custom of strip searching detainees, and dismissing all other grounds for liability against the city (with prejudice), including his claim for punitive damages, his claim of malicious prosecution, and his state law claims. 3 months later (August 1), he stipulated to the dismissal of one of the police officer defendants.

The case was reassigned to Judge Paul S. Diamond in October 2019.

The following year, on May 20, 2020, Judge Diamond denied the city’s motion for summary judgment. The court held that it "cannot conclude as a matter of law that the City’s Policy comports with the Fourth Amendment." 2020 WL 2571100.

On May 27, 2020, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint, seeking class certification of a class of individuals who were, like him, arrested on minor charges and strip-searched in spite of the police having no particularized suspicion that they were carrying drugs, weapons, or other contraband. The putative class included all such people arrested from March 1, 1995 until such date as injunctive relief would be granted. This expanded complaint sought class-wide compensatory and punitive damages, a declaration that the city had violated the constitutional and statutory rights of the class members, and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief. The proposed injunction would require the city to “establish appropriate policies and procedures for when strip-searches may be lawfully carry out,” and would prohibit the city from conducting strip searches in minor arrests without a particularized suspicion that the suspect was concealing drugs, weapons, or other contraband. The complaint also sought attorney’s fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. §1988.

As of June 16, 2020, a class certification hearing is scheduled for August 28, 2020.

Gregory Marsh - 06/17/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Pattern or Practice
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
State law
Defendant(s) City of Chester
Plaintiff Description A man who was arrested for a minor offense, subjected to a strip search without probable cause, and ultimately not charged with any crime.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 02/25/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
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)
2:19-cv-00799-PD (E.D. Pa.)
PN-PA-0019-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/09/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PN-PA-0019-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/25/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Entry of Appearance and Demand for Jury Trial [ECF# 3]
PN-PA-0019-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/18/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Class Action Complaint [ECF# 37]
PN-PA-0019-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Diamond, Paul Steven (E.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
PN-PA-0019-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Feldman, Alan (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PN-PA-0019-0003 | PN-PA-0019-9000
Geckle, Patrick G (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PN-PA-0019-0001 | PN-PA-0019-0003 | PN-PA-0019-9000
Goldis, Edward S. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PN-PA-0019-0003 | PN-PA-0019-9000
Mitnick, Andrew Kevin (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PN-PA-0019-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cummins, Nicholas A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PN-PA-0019-0002 | PN-PA-0019-9000
Leinhauser, Brian H (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PN-PA-0019-9000
Macmain, David J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PN-PA-0019-9000

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