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PROFITT v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

August 29, 1991

GLORIA PROFITT, Plaintiff
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants


Hogan


The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS F. HOGAN

Now before this Court is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The defendants allege that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which the Court may grant relief and, further, that the claim against the individual defendants should be dismissed as they are entitled to qualified immunity. Upon consideration of the defendants' motion, the memorandum of points and authorities in support of that motion, the plaintiff's opposition brief, and the representations of counsel at the May 29, 1991 hearing, the Court shall grant defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the Fourth Amendment claim and the claim for false imprisonment and shall grant the defendants' motion to dismiss as to the claims for assault and for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

 Statement of the Case

 The plaintiff, an employee of the D.C. Department of Corrections, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 alleging violations of her Fourth Amendment rights. She also alleges the common law torts of assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment. Specifically, she contends that two of her superiors, Lt. Saundra Green and Sgt. Geraldine Holloway, forced her to undergo a strip search and visual body cavity search. At the time of the events alleged, the plaintiff was five months pregnant.

 On December 29, 1989, the plaintiff called Lt. Green at the jail at about 9:30 p.m. and reported that she would be arriving for duty at 11:30 p.m. Approximately one half hour later, Lt. Green received an anonymous telephone call informing her that the plaintiff would be reporting to the next shift at 11:30 p.m. with one ounce of cocaine. Lt. Green, who stated in her affidavit that she had known previously of suspected drug use by plaintiff, asked the caller for his name which he declined to provide. The caller identified the plaintiff by her name. The call lasted about three minutes.

 Lt. Green notified Ralph Green and Walter Durham, both higher ranking officials at the jail, of the call. She was told to notify David Roach, Administrator of the D.C. Jail. Defendant Roach told Lt. Green to pat down the plaintiff at the jail entrance and to search her further in the jail's female Receiving and Discharge Unit. In his affidavit, Defendant Roach stated that he was aware of suspicions of plaintiff's involvement with drug trafficking at the jail, communicated to him by confidential sources.

 At the jail entrance, there is a sign which warns individuals entering that they will be subjected to a search. Lt. Green stated in her affidavit that other incidents had occurred at the jail where anonymous callers provided information about staff members bringing contraband into the jail. In one instance, an employee was found carrying drugs.

 When the plaintiff arrived at the jail entrance at the time around that predicted by the caller, Lt. Green told her that an anonymous phone call had been received indicating that the plaintiff would be bringing contraband into the jail.

 The plaintiff then voluntarily turned over her purse for inspection. One glass perfume bottle was found. This is considered contraband since no glass bottles are allowed in the D.C. Jail. After the search of the purse, Sgt. Holloway performed a pat down, to which the plaintiff consented.

 After this initial search, the plaintiff was escorted to the female Receiving and Discharge Unit. The government contends that the plaintiff agreed to submit to a strip search. The plaintiff disputes this fact and, instead, argues that she first asked to consult with a union representative or have one present during the strip search. When that request was allegedly denied, the plaintiff asserts that she refused to consent to the strip search. The plaintiff alleges that Lt. Green then told her that she must either submit to the strip search or be forcibly detained and turned over to the custody of the Metropolitan Police. Lt. Green maintains that after she told the plaintiff that her refusal to submit to the strip search would be reported to the Metropolitan Police, the plaintiff then consented to the strip search which Lt. Green and Sgt. Halloway conducted.

 After the strip search, the plaintiff contends that she was forced to submit to a visual body cavity search during which she was required to squat naked and cough. The government asserts that no "body cavity" search was conducted. No drugs or contraband, other than the perfume bottle, were found in the possession of the plaintiff.

 Discussion

 I. Reasonableness of Search

 In analyzing actions which implicate the Fourth Amendment, courts must determine if a standard of reasonableness was observed. New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 335, 83 L. Ed. 2d 720, 105 S. Ct. 733 (1985). This determination "requires a balancing of the need for the particular search against the invasion of personal rights that the search entails." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979). Factors to consider include "the scope of the particular intrusion, the manner in which it is conducted, the justification for initiating it, and the place in which it was so conducted." Id.

 The Second Circuit directly and extensively addressed searches of correctional officers in Security and Law Enforcement Employees v. Carey, 737 F.2d 187 (2d Cir. 1984). In that case, the Court of Appeals held that "warrantless strip searches of correction officers within correctional facilities are not per se violations of the fourth and fourteenth amendments of the Constitution." Id. at 203. The Court determined that these searches fell within an exception to the warrant requirement since the legitimate governmental purpose of ...


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