On May 12, 2005, male arrestees at the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. The plaintiffs sued the warden of Central Booking, the Baltimore Police Department, the City of Baltimore, and other state officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the Court for injunctive relief, compensatory and consequential damages, and attorneys fees and costs. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were liable under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. This case was one of three cases alleging mistreatment of persons arrested and taken to Central Booking for booking and processing. The other cases were JC-MD-0008: Maryland NAACP v. Baltimore City Police Department, 1:06-cv-01863-CCB (D. Md. 2006) and JC-MD-0011: Rodney v. Murphy, 24-C-05004405, filed in Maryland state court.
Plaintiffs sought certification for five classes. First, the suspicionless strip search class which consisted of those who had been or would be arrested for crimes not involving weapons, drugs, or felony violence, who were strip searched by Central Booking employees without any individualized finding that they were harboring weapons, drugs, or other contraband. Second, the non-private strip search class was composed of those who had been or would be subjected to strip searches at Central Booking with other arrestees present. Third, the equal protection strip search class consisted of male arrestees strip searched at Central Booking while similarly-situated female arrestees were not. Fourth, the underwear strip search class was made up of male arrestees subjected to an underwear strip search while similarly-situated female arrestees were not. Fifth, the over detention class consisted of those arrested without warrants who had been or would be detained for an unreasonable length of time (more than 48 hours) before presentment to a judicial officer for a determination of probable cause.
The defendants moved to dismiss the third amended complaint for failure to state a claim. The District Court (District Judge Catherine C. Blake) granted the motion in part and dismissed all claims against the City and the Police Department, rejecting the theory of "entrustment liability." Claims against the state defendants survived, with the exception of individual claims against the current warden. 470 F.Supp.2d 537 (D. Md. Jan 04, 2007).
On July 11, 2008, the district court (Judge Blake) issued a memorandum on the issue of whether the gender-differentiated search policy violated the Equal Protection Clause. The court granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the issue and denied the defendants' motion.
On March 19, 2009, the district court partially granted the plaintiffs' motion to certify a class. Specifically, the court certified the following subclasses: 1) those people detained for more than 48 hours without having been brought before a commissioner, and 2) those people arrested for minor, nondrug, nonviolent offenses and strip-searched before they were brought before a commissioner. The court declined to certify the following subclasses: 1) those people who weren't strip-searched privately, and 2) male arrestees who were searched to their underwear when female detainees were not.
For the next two years discovery motions were exchanged, until the defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment on January 14, 2011.
On March 5th, 2013 Judge Blake issued a memorandum and an order granting the motion for partial summary judgment. The court granted the motion under the doctrine of qualified immunity.
An appeal was filed in August of 2013. A panel of three judges rendered a decision on November 11, 2014. 771 F.3d 209 (4th Cir. 2014). The Circuit Court (Circuit Judge James Harvie Wilkinson III) affirmed the district court's decision to grant partial summary judgment. The court noted that several police officers and guards testified that they found illegal contraband from these searches. And the searchers were being conducted in a private room. On the issue of qualified immunity, the court noted that the right in question the right to not be subjected to a strip search, was not clearly established at the time of the searches. A Supreme Court decision was filed in 2012, settling aspects of the issue after the fact, but before this, officers who were conducting searches, could not reasonably tell if the searches were violating a constitutional right. The court found the defense of qualified immunity acceptable here, and determined that the motion for partial summary judgment was properly granted.
Circuit Judge James Andrew Wynn Jr. filed a concurring opinion in which he pointed out that the Supreme Court intimated in the Florence decision that there may be exceptions to the rule. That detainees not being admitted into the general population should not have to be stripped searched. The complexities of the exceptions have not been explored by the courts, and Judge Wynn notes that there needs to be more elaboration on this topic, so public officials know how to act accordingly. However, the merits of the case will not be reached because of the granting of summary judgment.
On February 24, 2015 Judge Blake filed a memo regarding the January 31, 2011 motion for partial summary judgment. 2015 WL 790334. The motion was made by the defendant, Warden Murphy, over the class of Plaintiffs claiming that Central Booking practiced "over-detention." The court held that the plaintiffs' theory of supervisor liability was defective because there was no evidence that Ms. Murphy was deliberately indifferent to the constitutional injury of the Plaintiffs. Ms. Murphy does not deny that there were detainees held longer than 48 hours, which is past what is constitutionally acceptable, but she argues that it was caused by factors outside of her control. The court agreed that the delays in presenting detainees before a court commissioner was the fault of the Baltimore police, the state's attorneys office, and court officials. Furthermore, the court argued that Ms. Murphy made several efforts to remedy the problem, and that the plaintiffs' complaint that it was not fast enough or proactive enough did not prove deliberate indifference. Finally, the court also granted the summary judgment motion on the theory of qualified immunity, so the defendant had no fair warning that her conduct was unconstitutional.
A few months later on June 15, 2015 the Court entered final judgment and closed the case. Kristen Sagar - 06/06/2009