Civil Case Law - Sixth Circuit

Roden v. Sowders, 84 F.Appx. 611 (6th Cir. 2003): Strip search of male prisoner in the presence of female sergeant, who allegedly laughed at prisoner when he was naked, did not violate prisoner's Fourth Amendment privacy rights  nor his Eighth Amendment rights.  Even if the sergeant did laugh, verbal insults of any inmate were not actionable, and search was conducted in response to allegations that prisoner had been smoking marijuana and was reasonably related to legitimate penological interest of security and order.

Muhammad v. Bush , 1997 WL 434382 (6th Cir. July 31, 1997):  A Muslim male inmate claimed pat down searches by female officers violated his First Amendment rights.  The court found that the policy protected security concerns, and the need for spontaneous pat down searches overrode the inmate’s First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.  

Cornwell v. Dahlberg, 963 F.2d 912 (6th Cir. 1992): The court held that an inmate successfully stated a  Fourth Amendment privacy claim, where he was subjected to an outdoor strip search in the presence of several female correctional officers following a prison disturbance.

Kent v. Johnson, 821 F.2d 1220 (6th Cir. 1987): A male inmate claimed female correctional officers had unlimited viewing access of male inmates.  The court reversed the district court's dismissal of the male inmate's § 1983 claim and found that inmate had a viable claim under the First, Fourth, and Eighth Amendments.  The court permitted his First Amendment claim, as the inmate alleged he was deprived of his rights to free exercise of religion, as he could not practice the modesty tenant of his Christian faith while female officers could view him naked.  The Fourth Amendment was upheld due to the unnecessary exposure to female officers.  The court also allowed his Eighth Amendment claim, as the plaintiff alleged that female prison officers began viewing him at close range and for extended periods of time in retaliation for asserting his right to privacy.

Mead v. Cty. of St. Joseph , 2008 WL 441129 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 13, 2008): A female detainee was strip searched by male officers. She told them that she did not want to undress in front of them, and that she had been sexually abused in the past. The officers then told her that if she did not take her own clothes off, they would forcibly strip her. The court found that the plaintiff could sustain a Fourth Amendment claim, as a reasonable fact finder could find that defendant’s executed an unreasonable search. The court also permitted the plaintiff to bring an Eighth Amendment claim against the individual officer, as well as a state tort claim of assault and battery.  The court dismissed the county as a party, as there was no evidence the county had a policy condoning such behavior, or that the need for a policy prohibiting the behavior was inherently obvious.

Wilson v. City of Kalamazoo , 127 F. Supp. 2d 855 (W.D. Mich. 2000): Male arrestees detained in a city jail without any clothing or covering for between six and eighteen hours, with at least limited exposure to viewing by members of the opposite sex, stated claims for violation of their right of privacy under the Fourth Amendment; even if they were deprived of clothing as a suicide prevention measure.  The court found the removal of their underclothing was not adequately justified.

Johnson v. Kalamazoo , 124 F. Supp. 2d 1099 (W.D. Mich. 2000): The court  found that holding male detainees in their underwear for a limited time period in the presence of female officers did not violate detainees' Fourth Amendment privacy expectations, nor their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights.

Neal v. Dep’t of Corr., 2009 WL 187813 (Mich. App. Jan. 27, 2009): Female inmates in the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) alleged that the MDOC assigns male officers to the housing units of all women's facilities without providing any training related to cross-gender supervision.  The complaint further alleged that the “women are forced to dress, undress, and perform basic hygiene and body functions in the open with male officers observing; that defendants allow male officers to observe during gynecological and other intimate medical care; that defendants require male officers to perform body searches of women prisoners that include pat downs of their breasts and genital areas.”   The court found that the director and the prison warden had adequate notice of the hostile environment, and could be held liable.

Rushing v. Wayne County, 462 N.W.2d 23 (1990): Pretrial detainee brought action under § 1983 against county and county employees.  For four days, detainee was permitted to wear only panties, and repeatedly exposed to members of opposite sex.  The court found that the detainee adequately stated a claim for invasion of privacy or deprivation of liberty without due process, as she was repeatedly subjected to unnecessary viewing by males, including officers, a janitor, and a group of ten to twelve students visiting the jail.