Civil Case Law - Ninth Circuit

Byrd v. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Dept. , 629 F.3d 1135 (9th Cir. 2011): A female cadet conducted a pat down search on a male detainee.  The cadet touched the detainee’s thighs, buttocks, and genitals, and moved his penis and scrotum while detainee was clad only in boxer shorts.  At least ten to fifteen people were present, including male cadets.  The court found that the search did not violate his Fourteenth Amendment rights, as the search was prompted by several recent fights and suspicion of contraband.  The court found, however, that the search did violate his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. The court distinguished this case from other cross-gender pat down searches that did not violate the Fourth Amendment noting that the officer touched the detainee’s penis and scrotum, and that the detainee was essentially unclothed.

Laing v. Guisto , 92 F.Appx. 422 (9th Cir. 2004): A male inmate claimed that the jail’s policy of permitting female officers to conduct pat down searches on male inmates violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights.  The court affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment to the sheriff, finding that the searches were justified by security concerns.

Rice v. King County, 243 F.3d 549 (9th Cir. 2000): Male inmate complained that female officer conducted a pat down search, during which she shoved her hand into his testicals.  The male inmate claimed he was sexually abused as a child, and he vomited after the search.  The court dismissed his Eighth Amendment claim, as he had not produced evidence that the officer knew or had reason to know of his vulnerability.

Fain v. Gomez, 145 F.3d 1337 (9th Cir. 1998):  The court dismissed a male inmate’s claim regarding cross-gender searches, noting that “a visual strip search of male prisoners by female officers, without more, does not violate a privacy right.

Somers v. Thurman, 109 F.3d 614 (9th Cir. 1997): Male inmate brought § 1983 claim against female officers and prison officials, alleging that female officers had performed visual body cavity searches and watched him while showering naked.  The court rejected his Fourth Amendment claim, finding that privacy interests of male inmates prohibiting cross-gender body cavity searches was not clearly established at the time.  The court also rejected his Eighth Amendment claim, finding that his allegations that female officers had pointed and joked during the searches and while he showered were not sufficient to state a claim.

Kuntz v. Wilson, 33 F.3d 59 (9th Cir. 1994):  The court dismissed a male inmate’s claim that a female employee in another room was able to view him being strip searched through a large glass window.  The court noted that prisoners have a limited right of privacy from officers of the opposite sex, and that “the assignment of female prison officers to positions requiring only infrequent and casual observation of naked male prisoners does not violate the prisoners' right to privacy.”

Jordan v. Gardner , 986 F.2d 1521 (9th Cir. 1993): The Washington Corrections Center for Women implemented a policy allowing male correctional officers to conduct random pat down searches of female inmates.  The inmates brought suit under § 1983. The court held the policy violated the inmates’ Eighth Amendment rights.  The court found that many of the female inmates had been sexually abused, and that the searches by male correctional could cause psychological harm.  The prison officials were deliberately indifferent to that harm, as they were warned about the effects such searches would have on the inmates. Furthermore, the cross-gender searches were unnecessary, as prison security did not depend on the searches, and did not affect male officer’s equal employment opportunities.

Sepulveda v. Ramirez, 967 F.2d 1413 (9th Cir. 11992), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 931, 114 S.Ct. 342 (1993): A male parole officer violated the constitutional rights of a female parolee when he observed her during a urine drug test.

Michenfelder v. Sumner, 860 F.2d 328 (9th Cir. 1988): A male inmate brought a § 1983 action against prison officials, claiming that strip searches conducted in front of female officers violated his right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment.  The court affirmed the lower court’s judgment against the inmate, finding that the presence of female officers did not violate his rights.  The court found that female officers were not routinely present during searches, and that prison had made reasonable attempts to accommodate privacy concerns by its allocation of responsibilities between male and female officers.

Grummett v. Rushen, 779 F.2d 491 (9th Cir. 1985): Three male inmates brought a suit against prison officials, claiming that the prison’s policy allowing female correctional  officers to view them while undressing, using the toilet, or showering, violated their right to privacy.  The court upheld the lower court’s summary judgment ruling for the prison officials, finding that policy did not violate their right to privacy.  The court found the female officers had only limited or infrequent views of the male inmate, and they conducted themselves professionally, treating the inmates with respect.

Ransom v. Martinez , 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39707 (E.D. Cal., 2010): A sergeant implemented a policy that required male inmates to undergo an unclothed search in plain view of others before being brought in from the outside exercise cages.  The male inmate brought suit under § 1983 claiming that he was forced to strip in front of male and female staff members and other inmates, which violated his right to privacy, as well as his First Amendment right to practice his Muslim faith.  The court permitted the plaintiff to proceed in his First and Fourth Amendment claims.  The court distinguished this case from others, in that the searches were conducted in “plain view,” with a high frequency (every time he left the outside exercise cages).

Lay v. Porker , 371 F. Supp. 2d 1159 (C.D. Cal. 2004): State prison inmate brought § 1983 Fourth Amendment action against corrections officer, alleging that he had been subjected to overly intrusive body search in the presence of a female officer.  The court held that the corrections officer’s alleged subjection of inmate to needlessly intrusive unclothed body cavity search in presence of female officer constituted a violation of the Fourth Amendment, however, officer was entitled to qualified immunity, as there was no clearly established right of inmate to be free from bodily exposure to officers of the opposite sex at the time of the search.

Carlin v. Manu , 72 F. Supp. 2d. 1177 (D. Or. 1999):  Female state prison inmates brought action against male correctional officers, alleging that skin searches performed on inmates had violated their Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights. The court held that officers were entitled to qualified immunity.

Jones v. Harrison , 864 F. Supp. 166 (D. Kan. 1994):  Strip search of male inmate in presence of female officer did not violate inmate's right to privacy or support a § 1983 civil rights claim given that strip search was conducted as part of emergency intervention to prevent suspected disturbance.  Furthermore, a strip search in female officer's presence is permitted under the Kansas Department of Corrections’ procedures in emergency circumstances.