Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘ninth circuit

San Francisco County Jail’s Blanket Strip Search Policy Is Reasonable, Ninth Circuit Says

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An en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit held today that San Francisco County Jail’s blanket strip search policy is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment — overruling earlier Ninth Circuit precedent that required individualized reasonable suspicion for jailhouse strip searches. The opinion is worth reading in full, for it comes complete with a provocative, though somewhat digressive concurrence by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (sampler: “I’m convinced that airport searches would be far more intrusive if upper and middle-class Americans were exempt”) and a vigorous dissent by Judge Thomas, co-signed by Judges Wardlaw, Berzon, and Rawlinson, opening with a litany of the plaintiffs’ allegations. Litigators’ tip: When challenging an intrusive search policy under the Fourth Amendment, it’s always helpful if one of your plaintiffs is a Catholic nun:

Mary Bull was arrested at a political protest for pouring red dye mixed with corn syrup on the ground. At the police station, according to her testimony, she was pushed to the floor and her clothes forcibly removed. Her face was smashed against the concrete cell floor while jailors performed a body cavity search. She was left naked in the cell for eleven hours, then subjected to a second body cavity search. After another twelve hours in the jail, she was released on her own recognizance. She was never charged with a crime.

Charli Johnson was arrested for operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license. She alleges she was forcibly strip searched by male officers in a hallway, and that she was kept in a cold room, naked for twelve hours with male officers regularly viewing her. No contraband was found. She was released the next day. No charges were ever filed.

Sister Bernie Galvin, a Catholic nun and a member of the Sisters of Divine Providence, was arrested at an anti-war demonstration for trespassing. She was strip searched at the jail. No contraband was found.
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Written by sara

February 9, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Ninth Circuit to Inmate Voters: Not So Fast

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A few weeks ago, a Ninth Circuit panel ruled that Washington State’s felon disenfranchisement law violates the Voting Rights Act (full opinion can be downloaded here), because it has the effect of disproportionately disenfranchising minority voters. (Three other federal circuits have upheld similar laws in other states.) Today, the panel granted Washington’s request to temporarily suspend its ruling, so as to give the state time to appeal to the Supreme Court (stay order can be downloaded here). Basically, the panel agreed not to issue right away a mandate that would have required state and county election officials to immediately begin allowing inmates and felons on community supervision to register and to cast ballots. That means inmates won’t be able to vote in the county special elections currently ongoing throughout Washington State.

Written by sara

January 28, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Ninth Circuit Reinstates Lawsuit over 2005 Suicide in California Jail

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In 2005, 29-year-old Robert Clouthier hanged himself with a bed sheet while in custody at a Contra Costa County, Calif. jail, where he’d been booked on battery and vandalism charges arising out of a violent outburst against his father. Last week, the Ninth Circuit issued its ruling in a lawsuit filed by Clouthier’s parents against Contra Costa County and against three jail officials, who, the Clouthiers allege, failed to prevent their son’s suicide, despite knowing about his grave mental health problems, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. The court reinstated the Clouthiers’ suit as to one of the defendants — the mental health specialist who took Clouthier off suicide watch — partially overturning the district court’s grant of summary judgment.

The day that Clouthier arrived at the jail, as part of a routine intake mental health screening, he

told [county mental health specialist Sharlene] Hanaway that he was suicidal, and that he wanted to be “unconscious for the rest of his life.” Hanaway described Clouthier as “despondent, hopeless, suicidal” and “one of the most suicidal inmates she had ever seen.” Hanaway’s notes state that Clouthier had made numerous past suicide attempts, including one incident two months earlier that required hospitalization after he cut his wrists. [Her] notes reflect that Clouthier had taken medication for several years, but that he had ceased doing so two and a half years ago.

(Clouthier v. County of Contra Costa, No. 07-16703, 9th Cir., Jan. 14, 2010, p. 1123)

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Written by sara

January 28, 2010 at 10:36 am

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