University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Savard v. Rhode Island JC-RI-0002
Docket / Court 1:00-cv-00261-ML ( D.R.I. )
State/Territory Rhode Island
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
This lawsuit was filed on the heels of a separate case, Roberts v. Rhode Island (appearing in this database as JC-RI-0001). In Roberts, the Rhode Island District Court enjoined as unconstitutional the enforcement of a written strip and body cavity search policy then in effect at the Adult ... read more >
This lawsuit was filed on the heels of a separate case, Roberts v. Rhode Island (appearing in this database as JC-RI-0001). In Roberts, the Rhode Island District Court enjoined as unconstitutional the enforcement of a written strip and body cavity search policy then in effect at the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI) in Cranston, Rhode Island. See Roberts v. Rhode Island, 175 F.Supp.2d 176, 183 (D.R.I. 2000), affirmed by Roberts v. Rhode Island, 239 F.3d 107, 113 (1st Cir. 2001). On May 17, 2000 (the day the District Court issued its injunctive order in the Roberts case), Rhode Island abandoned the challenged policy. Thereafter, on May 30, 2000, the plaintiffs in this case, a group of individuals who had been arrested for non-violent, non-drug related misdemeanors and had been subjected to the proscribed strip and body cavity search policy before its abolition on May 17, 2000, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. Plaintiffs alleged that their Fourth Amendment rights were violated when they were subjected to the ACI's pre-May 17, 2000 blanket policy of conducting strip and body cavity searches of all new entrants to the facility (including misdemeanant arrestees), despite the absence of reasonable suspicion. Plaintiffs claimed that, as a result of the constitutional violations, they were entitled to monetary damages.

Interestingly, Craig L. Roberts, Sr., the plaintiff in the Roberts case, was also among the plaintiffs seeking monetary damages in this subsequently filed lawsuit. The District Court, at the request of Defendants, dismissed Roberts's claim on grounds of res judicata. The defendant jail officials then moved for summary judgment against the remaining plaintiffs on the ground that they were entitled to qualified immunity because, prior to the Roberts decision, it was not clearly established that the ACI policy violated the Constitution. The District Court (Judge Mary M. Lisi) agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Initially, a First Circuit panel reversed the District Court's judgment. Savard v. Rhode Island, 320 F.3d 34 (1st Cir. 2003). Upon granting rehearing en banc, however, a divided First Circuit reversed the panel decision and affirmed the District Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The en banc Court reasoned that the jail officials were entitled to qualified immunity since, at the time the searches were conducted (prior to the Roberts decision), it was not yet clearly established that the blanket strip search policy at issue was unconstitutional. Savard v. Rhode Island, 338 F.3d 23 (1st Cir.2003).

Plaintiffs subsequently sought but were denied Certiorari by the United States Supreme Court. Savard v. Rhode Island, 540 U.S. 1109 (2004). The case now appears to be closed.

Dan Dalton - 02/12/2008

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Search policies
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Rhode Island Department of Corrections
State of Rhode Island
Plaintiff Description The arrestees were detained for non-violent, non-drug related minor offenses and, prior to being commingled with the general prison population, were subjected to strip and visual body cavity searches.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2000
Case Closing Year 2004
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing JC-RI-0001 : Roberts v. State of Rhode Island (D.R.I.)
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 ]

1:00-cv-00261-ML (D.R.I.)
JC-RI-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/11/2003
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion (320 F.3d 34)
JC-RI-0002-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/11/2003
Source: Google Scholar
Judgment and Opinions En Banc (338 F.3d 23)
JC-RI-0002-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/04/2003
Source: Google Scholar
[Cert. denied] (540 U.S. 1109)
JC-RI-0002-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/12/2004
Source: Westlaw
Judges Boudin, Michael (D.D.C., First Circuit)
Bownes, Hugh Henry (D.N.H., First Circuit)
JC-RI-0002-0001 | JC-RI-0002-0002
Coffin, Frank Morey (First Circuit)
JC-RI-0002-0001 | JC-RI-0002-0002
Howard, Jeffrey R. (First Circuit)
Lipez, Kermit Victor (First Circuit)
Lisi, Mary M. (D.R.I.)
Lynch, Sandra Lea (First Circuit)
Selya, Bruce Marshall (FISCR, D.R.I., First Circuit)
JC-RI-0002-0001 | JC-RI-0002-0002
Torruella, Juan R. (D.P.R., First Circuit)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Belzley, Gregory A. (Kentucky)
JC-RI-0002-0001 | JC-RI-0002-0002 | JC-RI-0002-9000
Kelly, Thomas W. (Rhode Island)
JC-RI-0002-0001 | JC-RI-0002-0002 | JC-RI-0002-9000
Roy, Edward C. Jr. (Rhode Island)
Defendant's Lawyers Lee, James R. (Rhode Island)
Partington, Rebecca Tedford (Rhode Island)
JC-RI-0002-0001 | JC-RI-0002-0002 | JC-RI-0002-9000

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