Civil Case Law - Second Circuit

Hartline v. Gallo , 546 F.3d 95 (2d Cir. 2008):  A female arrestee brought a § 1983 action against jail officials, claiming that jail officials violated her Fourth Amendment rights by strip searching her and telecasting video of that strip search to male officers.  The court found there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the jail’s surveillance system did in fact telecast the strip search of the female arrestee elsewhere in the police station, precluding summary judgment in favor of police department.

Forts v. Ward, 621 F.2d 1210 (2nd Cir. 1980): Male correctional officers were permitted to view female inmates while they were sleeping, changing clothes, or using the toilet.  The Second Circuit, assuming without deciding that the female prisoners had a privacy right, concluded that their right could be adequately protected by permitting inmates to cover their cell windows for fifteen minute intervals and by issuing suitable nighttime garments.

Nelson v. City of Stamford, 2012 WL 233994 (D. Conn. Jan. 25, 2012): During a search of a female detainee, one male officer in a jail facility assisted with the removal of the detainee’s clothing, and another male officer placed his hands inside her pants and touched her buttocks.  The court refused to dismiss the detainee’s Fourth Amendment claim on a motion for summary judgment, as a reasonable jury could find that the removal of the inmate’s shirt and brassiere by a female and a male officer and the touching of her buttocks underneath her pants by a male officer, could constitute an unreasonable search.

Forde v. Baird , 720 F. Supp. 2d 170 (D. Conn. 2010):  A female Muslim inmate was subjected to cross-gender searches, due to a prison policy allowing for non-emergency pat searches of female inmates by male officers.  The female inmate brought suit under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment.  The court allowed the plaintiff’s RFRA claim to survive a motion for summary judgment, as the prison’s interest in staffing were not sufficiently compelling to justify the burden on inmate's right of free exercise of religion. The court did not reach the First Amendment claim, finding it could adequately address her case on the RFRA claim alone.

Bolden v. Village of Monticello , 344 F. Supp. 2d 407 (S.D.N.Y. 2004): Male police officers authorized and witnessed body cavity searches of two women in front of male officers during a series of searches conducted with unreasonable force.  The court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s § 1983 claim, finding triable issues of fact as to whether the search was constitutionally valid.

Baker v. Welch , 2003 WL 22901051 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 10, 2003): A male parolee was required to urinate into a cup for a drug test while a female parole officer was present.  The court dismissed the plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claim on a motion for summary judgment, finding that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity.  The court found that the right to be free from cross-gender viewing was not clearly established at the time of the incident, relying on both the lack of Supreme Court precedent and the circuit split on the issue.  The court noted in dicta court that parole officers are now on notice that the law is “clearly established” in forbidding “close” observation of a parolee’s genitals during a urine test by a parole officer of the opposite sex.

Colman v. Vasquez , 142 F. Supp. 2d 226 (D. Conn. 2001): Female inmate in a federal facility in a special unit for victims of sexual abuse filed § 1983 action against prison officials claiming Fourth and Eighth Amendment violations inherent in the prison's practice of permitting male officers to conduct pat searches of female inmates. The court denied the officer’s motion to dismiss the Fourth Amendment claim, requiring factual findings as to the legitimate penological reason for the search.  The court also denied the motion to dismiss the Eighth Amendment claim, due to the special vulnerability of the inmate.  

Harnage v. Murphy, 2012 WL 447658 (Conn. Super, Jan. 23, 2012): A male inmate claimed that he was strip searched in the presence of female correctional employees. The court allowed the plaintiff’s constitutional claim for injunctive relief to proceed, while denying the plaintiff’s claim for monetary relief based on sovereign immunity.