On April 23, 2003, nine plaintiffs, acting through private attorneys, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging the strip search policy of the City and County of San Francisco ("CCSF"). Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that, under CCSF policy, all prisoners who were placed in the general jail population at the CCSF's jails were subjected to strip and visual body cavity searches, with those refusing to consent being placed naked in "cold rooms." Plaintiffs complained that this policy violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as well as several provisions of California state law.
Although Defendants generally denied the allegations, the policy at issue was discontinued by the Sheriff on January 21, 2004.
On June 10, 2004, the District Court certified a plaintiff class consisting of all persons who were arrested "on any charge not involving weapons, controlled substances, or a charge of violence, and not involving a violation of parole or a violation of probation (where consent to search is a condition of such probation), and who were subjected to a blanket visual body cavity strip search by defendants before arraignment at a San Francisco County jail facility without any individualized reasonable suspicion that they were concealing contraband."
Discovery followed and the Court was called upon to resolve several discovery disputes. See Bull v. City and County of San Francisco, 2003 WL 23857823 (N.D.Cal. Oct 27, 2003); Bull v. City and County of San Francisco, 2005 WL 40072 (N.D.Cal. Jan 05, 2005).
On June 24, 2005, Plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment with respect to the issue of whether the Sheriff's blanket policy of subjecting certain categories of plaintiff-arrestees to pre-arraignment strip searches, violated the Fourth Amendment. Defendants opposed Plaintiffs' motion and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing, in part, that the Sheriff was entitled to the defense of qualified immunity. The District Court issued a September 22, 2005 Memorandum and Order, which it subsequently amended on February 23, 2006, in order to grant in part and deny in part both parties' motions for summary judgment.
Specifically, the Court found that Defendants' former blanket policy of conducting strip searches without regard to individualized suspicion was unconstitutional as applied to members of the plaintiff-class who were (a) classified for housing in the general jail population; (b) probation violators for whom consent to search was not a condition of probation; or (c) certain categories of safety-cell detainees. With regard to the Defendants' former policy of strip searching (a) arrestees with a criminal history relating to drugs, weapons or violence; (b) arrestees who were transferred to or from other jurisdictions; or (c) certain other types of safety-cell detainees, however, the Court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that such searches were justified under the reasonable suspicion standard. The court also granted the Sheriff's motion for qualified immunity with regard to safety cell searches, criminal history searches, and consent searches but denied the motion with regard to classification searches. The Court also dismissed the claims of named plaintiffs Jonah Zern and Marcie Corneau, because it determined that the violent nature of their crimes provided reasonable suspicion for their strip searches. Bull v. City & County of San Francisco, 2006 WL 449148 (N.D.Cal. Feb 23, 2006).
The defendants filed an appeal, but lost in the 9th Circuit in an opinion by Circuit Judge Sydney Thomas. 539 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir. 2008). Judge Tallman dissented; Judge Ikuta concurred, noting his "grave concern" that the holding, though compelled by prior 9th Circuit case law, stood in tension with Supreme Court precedent and might endanger the safety of people in the jail system subject to harm by jail contraband.
On a petition for rehearing, the Court vacated the panel's decision and set the case for reargument before 11 judges. 558 F.3d 887 (9th Cir. 2009). Argument occurred in March 2009.
On February 9, 2010, the 9th Circuit issued its opinion en banc, holding that the San Francisco strip search policy was reasonable and did not violate the class members' Fourth Amendment rights. The case was held in abeyance, pending the United States Supreme Court's decision in Florence v. County of Burlington (posted in the Clearinghouse as JC-NJ-0022.)
On April 2, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court in Florence held that a blanket policy of strip searching detainees does not violate the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendments, whether or not there is reasonable suspicion that the detainee is concealing contraband, and regardless of the severity of the charges under which he or she is being held. Florence v. Burlington County, 132 S.Ct. 1510 (2012). In their April 19th Joint Case Management Statement, the parties debated the scope of this decision's impact on the present case.
After a status conference, the case was referred to Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero for settlement on April 20, 2012. On June 14, 2012, the Court approved a stipulation to extend the plaintiff's deadline for filing a motion to redefine the class until September 15, 2012. After deciding that the Supreme Court's decision in Florence was not applicable to this case, the parties settled, and on June 28, 2013, the Court dismissed the case and approved the settlement agreement. The agreement required defendants to pay $450,000 to plaintiffs and to pay for the cost of notifying the class of the dismissal. Though one member of the class objected to the settlement, as of July 5, 2014, there has been no other activity after the dismissal.Timothy Shoffner - 06/17/2012
Maurice Youkanna - 07/05/2014