Civil Case Law - Fifth Circuit
Soto v. City of Haltom City , 106 F.Appx. 903 (5th Cir. 2004): Female detainee claimed her constitutional rights were violated when she was allegedly strip searched by male officers “without good cause.” The court affirmed the lower court’s decision granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss, because the detainee did not claim that the city had a policy or custom of allowing “baseless cross-gender strip searches,” so that the city could not be held liable. The court also added that the Constitution does not require jails that house female detainees either to staff more than one jailer at a time or to hire a female jailer.
Sinclair v. Stadler, 78 F. Appx. 987 (5th Cir. 2003): A male inmate challenged the use of female officers in living areas as a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The court granted summary judgment for the defendant, finding the use of female officers to supervise living areas occasions was nothing more than a brief postponement of the necessary functions of urination and/or defecation, rather than the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain required for a constitutional violation; and is reasonably related to penological objections including flexibility in security personnel staffing and equal employment opportunities.
Oliver v. Scott , 276 F.3d. 736 (5th Cir. 2002): A state jail inmate challenged the practice of permitting female officers to monitor male inmates in bathrooms and showers. He complained that female prison employees conducted strip searches of male inmates and observed male inmates showering and using the toilet. The Fifth Circuit held that these claims did not show a violation of the right to privacy or a violation of equal protection, in that female inmates were not subjected to the same type of cross-gender observation. The court found that the male inmates were not similarly situated to the female inmates, as the facility had six times as many men as women, male transfer inmates had been convicted of violent crimes while female inmates had been convicted of low level felonies, and male units were more prone to sexual predation. The Fifth Circuit also noted that while the inmate did not raise a claim of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, “his decision to forego this argument is wise, given that we have refused to extend the Eighth Amendment to strip searches.”
Petty v. Johnson, 193 F.3d 518 (5th Cir. 1999): The Fifth Circuit rejected a male inmate’s challenge to the facility’s policy allowing female officers to be present when male inmates shower.
Moore v. Carwell, 168 F.3d 236 (5th Cir. 1999): A male inmate claimed correctional officers performed repeated cross-gender searches and body cavity searches on him. The Fifth Circuit held that when a female officer conducts a strip search of a male inmate, in the absence of an emergency or extraordinary circumstances, the plaintiff can raise a viable Fourth Amendment claim. The court rejected an Eighth Amendment claim, finding the Fourth Amendment is the proper venue for a cross-gender strip search claim. Finally, the court remanded on the inmate’s First Amendment claims, as the inmate had stated his Baptist beliefs prevented him from being viewed naked by a female other than his wife.
West v. Parker, 68 F.3d 466 (5th Cir. 1995): A male inmate complained a female officer was given “unrestricted access” to male inmate's dormitory. The court stated that because the inmate failed to argue that her presence was unnecessary to maintain security, there was no basis for a constitutional claim under the Fourth or Eighth Amendments.
Letcher v. Turner, 968 F.2d 508 (5th Cir. 1992): A female correctional employee witnessed strip searches of male inmates. The court found there was no basis for a constitutional violation, as the presence of female officers was required to protect a legitimate government interest of maintaining security at a correctional facility.
Davis v. Chairman, Texas Bd. of Corrections , 2011 WL 2669327 (E.D. Tex. Jul. 6, 2011): A male inmate alleged he was strip searched in front of a female officer. The court found that the Fifth Circuit had never adopted the theory that a cross-gender strip search was per se unreasonable. The court did note that a strip search conducted by a female officer, in a non-emergency situation, could be unreasonable per se. As the inmate did not make such an allegation, the court dismissed his claim.
Hamer v. Jones , 2010 WL 4569963 (S.D. Tex. Nov. 5, 2010): A male inmate alleged he was strip searched by a female correctional officer. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the claims against the Warden, as he was not personally involved in the incident. On remand, the District Court dismissed the remaining claims against the individual officers, as the inmate had not met the specificity requirement of the grievance procedure under the PLRA.
Mitchell v. Quarterman , 2010 WL 2330382 (E.D. Tex. May 11, 2010): A male inmate brought claims under the First and Fourth Amendment, complaining that female officers could watch him in the shower or while using the toilet. The court dismissed his claim, as the inmate could not show that the “practice of stationing female officers in areas where they can observe male inmates showering or using the toilets is not reasonably related to the legitimate penological interests of maintaining security and providing for equal employment opportunities.”
Washington v. City of Shreveport , 2006 WL 1778756 (W.D. La. Jun. 26, 2006): A female participant in a work release program brought a § 1983 claim against the city, claiming that the city's policy of allowing male city workers to closely supervise and search female inmates participating in a work release program was unconstitutional. The court found that the city could not be held liable under § 1983, as the plaintiff had not alleged any deprivation of rights inflicted due to the city's policy.
Collins v. Scott, 961 F. Supp. 1009 (E.D. Tex. 1997): Male Muslim inmate brought claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and § 1983 arising from strip search conducted by a female officer. The inmate refused to strip in front of a female officer. He was then tasered and forcibly stripped. After a bench trial, the court found that prison officials did not violate RFRA, even assuming that the inmate's exercise of religion was substantially burdened, as the officials had a compelling governmental interest in security, and a strip search was the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.
Thompson v. Stansberry , 2002 WL 1362453 (Tex.App.-Tyler, Jun. 21, 2002): Male inmate brought action against correctional officer, former prison warden, and former director of Texas Department of Criminal Justice--Institutional Division alleging that a prison regulation allowing cross-gender searches violated his First Amendment rights. The court found the regulation allowing was rationally related to State's legitimate penological interests to ensure inmates and staff safety, and to reduce presence of contraband, and thus regulation, which was contrary to prisoner's religious faith, did not violate prisoner's right to free exercise of religion. There were no alternative means available, due to the constraints of the prison's personnel pool and the large number of searches