Case: Bonitz v. Fair

1:82-00032 | U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Filed Date: Jan. 6, 1982

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

Nine female prisoners brought action against state officials, alleging violation of their constitutional rights in connection with a wide-ranging search conducted at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Framingham, a medium security prison. The plaintiffs were represented by: the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union; Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services; the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; and private counsel.In 1981, Framingham correction officials provided the loca…

Nine female prisoners brought action against state officials, alleging violation of their constitutional rights in connection with a wide-ranging search conducted at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Framingham, a medium security prison. The plaintiffs were represented by: the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union; Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services; the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; and private counsel.

In 1981, Framingham correction officials provided the local district attorney's office with information concerning possible drug violations, prostitution, gambling, and staff corruption at Framingham. The district attorney's office undertook an investigation, which involved interviewing informants, reviewing institutional records, and examining telephone records and newspaper articles. In December 1981, the defendants began planning an extensive search at Framingham and obtained a search warrant providing that the search would be conducted according to an operational plan. The plan provided for a search of the entire institution by a combined force of state police troopers and correction officers. The search occurred at approximately 3:00 a.m. on January 6, 1982, and included body cavity searches of inmates performed by police officers rather than medical personnel. Several officers touched the plaintiffs' body cavities during the searches, and did not change their gloves between searches of different inmates. Plaintiffs sought to impose liability on the defendants as supervisory officials responsible for the search.

Plaintiffs' claims were apparently under the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and fourteenth amendments. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Judge Rya W. Zobel) granted summary judgment for defendants on all but the fourth amendment claim; the court denied defendants qualified immunity for damages. Defendants appealed.

In a published opinion dated November 3, 1986, on an interlocutory appeal, the United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit affirmed the district court decision. In a decision by Judge Cambell, the court held that female prisoners had a clearly established Fourth Amendment right to be free from body-cavity searches in conjunction with a general security search of a prison, and thus, officials were not entitled to qualified immunity on claims involving body-cavity searches. Judge Coffin dissented. Bonitz v. Fair, 804 F.2d 164 (1st Cir. 1986).

On July 31, 1987, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Judge Zobel) issued a Memorandum of Decision and Order limiting the issues for trial to the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the execution of the search, thereby excluding the issue of the validity of the warrant authorizing the search. Bonitz v. Fair, 1987 WL 15880 (D. Mass., July 31, 1987). Judge Zobel also denied Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim, determining that there were issues of fact remaining as to whether the defendants' plan and preparation for the search necessarily led to the execution of the search in an unreasonable manner. Additionally, Judge Zobel denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the claim for qualified immunity since their actions did not violate clearly established law, finding that there were issues of fact yet to be decided, and denied defendants' motion for summary judgment as to plaintiffs' state law claims.

There is no docket available for this case, and there are no available documents other than the Court of Appeals decision and the July 31, 1987 Memorandum and Order discussed above. Thus, there is no indication of whether or how the case was resolved.

Summary Authors

Theresa Spaulding (7/16/2005)

People


Judge(s)

Breyer, Stephen Gerald (District of Columbia)

Campbell, Levin Hicks (Massachusetts)

Coffin, Frank Morey (Maine)

Zobel, Rya Weickert (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Fast, Robert E. (Massachusetts)

Gertner, Nancy (Massachusetts)

Lambert Greenblatt, Ann (Massachusetts)

Mizner, Judith (Massachusetts)

Reinstein, John (Massachusetts)

Sherman, Robert (Massachusetts)

Judge(s)

Breyer, Stephen Gerald (District of Columbia)

Campbell, Levin Hicks (Massachusetts)

Coffin, Frank Morey (Maine)

Zobel, Rya Weickert (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Fast, Robert E. (Massachusetts)

Gertner, Nancy (Massachusetts)

Lambert Greenblatt, Ann (Massachusetts)

Mizner, Judith (Massachusetts)

Reinstein, John (Massachusetts)

Sherman, Robert (Massachusetts)

Stalus, Judith A. (Massachusetts)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Bellotti, Francis X. (Massachusetts)

Bishop, John W. Jr. (Massachusetts)

Brown, Roberta Thomas (Massachusetts)

Conway, Maryanne (Massachusetts)

Cox, Dan (Massachusetts)

Ratcliffe, J. Richard (Rhode Island)

Shaughnessy, William (Massachusetts)

Zisson, Richard L. (Massachusetts)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Reported Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

804 F.2d 164, 1986 U.S.App.LEXIS 33017

Nov. 3, 1986 Order/Opinion

Memorandum of Decision and Order

1987 WL 15880, 1987 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 7593

July 31, 1987 Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Massachusetts

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: Jan. 6, 1982

Case Ongoing: No reason to think so

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Female prisoners alleging violation of their constitutional rights in connection with search of medium security prisoner

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Unknown

Class Action Outcome: Unknown

Defendants

Mass. Correctional Institution (Framingham), State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Unreasonable search and seizure

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Mixed

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Order Duration: 1986 - None

Issues

General:

Search policies

Strip search policy

Affected Gender:

Female

Type of Facility:

Government-run