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Case Name Shain v. Ellison JC-NY-0016
Docket / Court 0:96-cv-03774-LDW ( E.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
On July 29, 1996, a previous pretrial detainee at the Nassau county Correctional Center (NCCC) filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against the County Sheriff, an unnamed assistant district attorney, and a family court judge ... read more >
On July 29, 1996, a previous pretrial detainee at the Nassau county Correctional Center (NCCC) filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against the County Sheriff, an unnamed assistant district attorney, and a family court judge alleging excessive use of force, unconstitutional strip search, false arrest, abuse of process, and malicious prosecution. He also sought a declaration that New York State Family Court Act § 155(2) which allowed his overnight incarceration without bail, was unconstitutional. On April 16, 1997, the court (Judge Leonard Wexler) entered a stipulated order dismissing all claims against the family court judge who had arraigned the plaintiff and remanded him to the NCCC without bail, but left the judge as a defendant in name only to permit the challenge to §155(2) to proceed. On January 9, 1998, the court (Judge Wexler) sua sponte dismissed the family court judge as a defendant. On December 31, 1998, the defendants moved for summary judgment on all of the plaintiff's claims, and plaintiff made a cross motion for summary judgment. In an oral decision the court (Judge Wexler) granted the motion to dismiss the claims of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process claims--reserving the excessive force and strip search claims for trial.

On June 1, 1999, while trial on the excessive force issue was being held, the court (Judge Wexler) granted summary judgment in plaintiff's favor on the unconstitutional strip search issue. Shain v. Ellison, 53 F.Supp.2d 564 (E.D.N.Y. 1999). The court found that the Fourteenth Amendment unequivocally precludes prison officials from performing strip searches on arrestees charged with minor offenses without a reasonable suspicion that the person is concealing a weapon or contraband. The court also found that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity because the unconstitutionality of a blanket strip search policy had been clearly established as far back as 1986.

A jury rejected the plaintiff's excessive force claim and awarded no damages for the strip search. Plaintiff moved to set aside the verdict and asked for a new trial. On November 12, 1999, the court (Judge Wexler) denied the motion and awarded plaintiff $1 in nominal damages for the strip search claim.

The defendants and the plaintiff appealed. On October 19, 2001, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Rosemary Pooler) found that the strip search policy was unconstitutional and that the law was clearly established, therefore the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. Shain v. Ellison, 273 F.3d 56 (2nd Cir. 2001). The court also found that the plaintiff had standing, that the district court's denial of a new trial on damages was not error, and that the district court's dismissal of the false arrest, abuse of process, and excessive force claims were proper. As to the § 155(2) claim, the court found that the district court was not in error by dismissing the district judge as a defendant because there was no realistic danger that the plaintiff would face the same harm again. Finally, the court found that although the plaintiff requested an injunction against future enforcement of the blanket strip search policy, the district court had neither granted or denied the request and therefore remanded to the district court to make the necessary findings.

On September 17, 2002, the district court (Judge Wexler) enjoined the defendants from enforcing a blanket strip search policy. Both the plaintiff and the defendants appealed. On January 20, 2004 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Barrington Daniels Parker Jr.) vacated the injunction because the plaintiff lacked standing to seek injunctive relief. Shain v. Ellison, 356 F.3d 211 (2nd Cir. 2004). The case was remanded to the district court with instructions to vacate for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The plaintiffs made a motion for attorney's fees and on December 20, 2004, the district court (Judge Wexler) entered a stipulated order for the settlement of attorney's fees. The PACER docket for the district court ends on December 20, 2004. We have no further proceedings or opinions for this case.

Jaclyn Adams - 04/05/2006

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Search policies
Strip search policy
Type of Facility
Causes of Action State law
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) County of Nassau
Plaintiff Description Misdemeanor detainee who was strip-searched at the county correctional facility.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2002 - 2004
Filing Year 1996
Case Closing Year 2004
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  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 ]

96-3774 (E.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0016-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/20/2004
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum and Order [Declaring Search Policy Unconstitutional] (53 F.Supp.2d 564) (E.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0016-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/01/1999
Source: Google Scholar
[Opinion Affirming the District Court's Decision and Remanding the Issue of an Injunction] (273 F.3d 56)
JC-NY-0016-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/19/2001
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion [Vacating the Injunction and Dismissing for Lack of Standing] (356 F.3d 211)
JC-NY-0016-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/20/2004
Source: Google Scholar
Stipulation of Settlement of Attorney's Fee Motion [ECF# 142] (E.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0016-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/20/2004
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Cabranes, Jose Alberto (Second Circuit, FISCR, D. Conn.)
JC-NY-0016-0003 | JC-NY-0016-0004
Katzmann, Robert A. (Second Circuit)
Parker, Barrington Daniels Jr. (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit)
Pooler, Rosemary S. (N.D.N.Y., Second Circuit)
Rakoff, Jed Saul (S.D.N.Y.)
Wexler, Leonard D. (E.D.N.Y.)
JC-NY-0016-0001 | JC-NY-0016-0002 | JC-NY-0016-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Freedman, Spencer B. (New York)
JC-NY-0016-0004 | JC-NY-0016-9000
Herbst, Robert L. (New York)
JC-NY-0016-0001 | JC-NY-0016-0002 | JC-NY-0016-0003 | JC-NY-0016-0003 | JC-NY-0016-0004 | JC-NY-0016-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Belohlavek, Michael S. (New York)
Clavin, Donald X. (New York)
Clines, Peter J. (New York)
Devlin, Robert P. (New York)
Fischer, Carol (New York)
Forte, Robert E. (New York)
Goodman, Lorna B. (New York)
JC-NY-0016-0001 | JC-NY-0016-0004
Kalapoutis, Taso (New York)
Millus, Paul F. (New York)
JC-NY-0016-0002 | JC-NY-0016-0003 | JC-NY-0016-9000
Pauley, William H. III (New York)
Saffran, Dennis J. (New York)
JC-NY-0016-0001 | JC-NY-0016-9000
Spitzer, Eliot (New York)
Other Lawyers Alberton, Kathleen (New York)
Boston, John (New York)
Brinckerhoff, Matthew D. (New York)
Cuti, John R. (New York)
Emery, Richard D. (New York)
Greenberg, Jack (New York)
Hess, Michael D. (New York)
Johnson, Laura R. (New York)
Kerr, Sarah (New York)
Morrison, Nina (New York)
Pollack, Gayle (New York)
JC-NY-0016-0003 | JC-NY-0016-0003
Sonnenshein, Larry A. (New York)
Turpen, Michael C. (Oklahoma)

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