Case: Hurley v. Coughlin

1:77-cv-03847 | U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Filed Date: Aug. 8, 1977

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In 1977, Michael Hurley filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), seeking to enjoin state correctional officers from routinely subjecting him to a strip frisk search in the absence of probable cause to believe that he has concealed contraband in his body. Plaintiff was represented by Prisoners' Legal Services of New York. The court (Judge Robert Lee Carter) granted the …

In 1977, Michael Hurley filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), seeking to enjoin state correctional officers from routinely subjecting him to a strip frisk search in the absence of probable cause to believe that he has concealed contraband in his body. Plaintiff was represented by Prisoners' Legal Services of New York. The court (Judge Robert Lee Carter) granted the relief holding only that the specific practice of requiring prisoners during strip search procedures to lift their genitals and to bend over and spread their buttocks violated basic federal civil rights. Hurley v. Ward, 448 F.Supp. 1227 (S.D.N.Y. 1978). It enjoined this practice in the absence of probable cause but did not enjoin other practices involved in the searches. On Appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Judge William Mulligan) reversed the district court's decision to grant relief to all inmates in the New York state correctional system and restricted application of the injunction to Hurley. Hurley v. Ward, 584 F.2d 609 (2d Cir. 1978).

On November 9, 1979, the court amended the injunction so that it no longer applied to strip frisk searches after contact visits. The district court also certified the matter as a class action on behalf of all prisoners in state custody. Khalil A. Rahman intervened on behalf of all Muslim inmates who challenged the state strip search on religious grounds. Another inmate, Isma'il Abdur Rahim filed a lawsuit in 1978 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging the search practices. Rahim suffered from glaucoma and because he refused to submit to the searches for religious reasons, he was unable to go to a facility where he could be treated. The cases were consolidated and jointly tried. Washington Square Legal Services (now NYU Legal Services) represented the Muslim inmates and the Legal Aid Society, Prisoners' Rights Project represented Rahin.

The district court (Judge Carter) held that routine strip searches may be required after contact visits but are unreasonable and unjustifiable under all other circumstances unless there is probable cause. Hurley v. Ward, 549 F.Supp. 174 (S.D.N.Y. 1982). The strip frisks after contact visits were also required of Muslim prisoners. The court held that regular strip searches may be justified under many circumstances. Defendants were required to provide Rahim proper medical attention for the treatment of his illnesses. The parties entered into a consent decree on July 21, 1983 (see Appendix to 158 F.R.D. 22). The decree outlined procedures to be followed regarding the court's decision. It was to be followed in every facility under the DOCS.

According to subsequent proceedings, the defendants ignored complaints of violations of the consent decree. Several conferences were held with the court between 1990 and 1993. Plaintiffs moved for an order holding defendants in contempt. The district court (Judge Carter) held that the plaintiffs proved that the defendants were no longer conducting searches according to the terms of the consent decree and had returned to the procedures in place before the consent decree. Hurley v. Coughlin, 158 F.R.D. 22 (S.D.N.Y. 1993). The court appointed a master to oversee the consent decree and ordered the defendants to post the decree in the library of each facility in Spanish and English. The court chose not to impose sanctions. In January of 1994, the parties entered into an agreement regarding the monitoring system, embodied on a Stipulation and Order signed by the court. In 1996, Judge Carter awarded attorneys' fees to plaintiffs. Hurley v. Coombe, 1996 WL 46889 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 1996).

The Decree remained in place for at least some time. It is described as active in Shabazz v. Pico, 994 F.Supp. 460 (S.D.N.Y. 1998), and referred to more obliquely in still later matters. But its docket is not digitized and we are unable to ascertain its current status more directly.

Summary Authors

Angela Heverling (4/5/2006)

People


Judge(s)

Carter, Robert Lee (New York)

Mulligan, William Hughes (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Angelos, Claudia (New York)

Fuller, Sarah Betsy (New York)

Giacalone, Arthur J. (New York)

Hellerstein, William E. (New York)

Leven, David C. (New York)

Lewis, Dori A. (New York)

Steinbock, Daniel J. (New York)

Terrizzi, Thomas (New York)

Judge(s)

Carter, Robert Lee (New York)

Mulligan, William Hughes (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Angelos, Claudia (New York)

Fuller, Sarah Betsy (New York)

Giacalone, Arthur J. (New York)

Hellerstein, William E. (New York)

Leven, David C. (New York)

Lewis, Dori A. (New York)

Steinbock, Daniel J. (New York)

Terrizzi, Thomas (New York)

Volkell, Randolph (New York)

Walter, Lanny Earl (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Abrams, Robert W. (New York)

Dahlman, Paul E. (New York)

Fietkau, August L. (New York)

Hirshowitz, Samuel A. (New York)

Howard, Richard M. (New York)

Janosek Doyle, Eleanor (New York)

Kinburn, Daniel (New York)

Lefkowitz, Louis J. (New York)

Leong, Vincent (New York)

Vacco, Dennis C. (New York)

Other Attorney(s)

O'Donnell, Brian (New York)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Opinion

Hurley v. Ward

448 F.Supp. 1227

April 11, 1978 Order/Opinion

Opinion

Hurley v. Ward

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

584 F.2d 609

Oct. 6, 1978 Order/Opinion

Opinion

549 F.Supp. 174

Sept. 29, 1982 Order/Opinion

Reported Opinion

158 F.R.D. 22

July 28, 1993 Order/Opinion

Opinion

Hurley v. Coombe

1996 WL 46889, 1996 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 1185

Feb. 6, 1996 Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL

Henry Hampton Collection: Interview of Hon. Robert Lee Carter

Robert Lee Carter, Henry Hampton Collection

This interview was done for Henry Hampton's Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). The Hon. Robert L. Carter began working as legal counsel to the NAACP in 1944. During the 19… Nov. 5, 1985 http://digital.wustl.edu/...

Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants

Margo Schlanger

This article looks at jail strip-search litigation and its participants, to analyze its internal dynamics. Among the interesting features of these cases is that many different kinds of lawyers work … April 1, 2008 https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/...

Docket

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

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: New York

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Special Collection(s):

Strip Search Cases

Key Dates

Filing Date: Aug. 8, 1977

Case Ongoing: Perhaps, but long-dormant

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Prison inmate seeking to enjoin state prison authorities from subjecting him to strip frisk searches

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

Prisoners' Legal Services of New York (PLSNY)

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: Unknown

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Dept. of Corr. Services, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Unreasonable search and seizure

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1983 - None

Issues

General:

Search policies

Strip search policy

Affected Gender:

Male

Type of Facility:

Non-government for profit