Case: Smith v. Montgomery County

1:82-cv-01323 | U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

Filed Date: May 20, 1982

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In May, 1982, Vivian Smith filed a class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging that the blanket strip search policy of the Montgomery County Detention Center, which required strip searching of all temporary detainees, violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The policy in question required strip searching of every person housed at the Detention Center, regardless of the offense charged or whether there was r…

In May, 1982, Vivian Smith filed a class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging that the blanket strip search policy of the Montgomery County Detention Center, which required strip searching of all temporary detainees, violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The policy in question required strip searching of every person housed at the Detention Center, regardless of the offense charged or whether there was reasonable suspicion that the search would yield weapons or contraband. Represented by private counsel, Smith sought monetary damages, declaratory and injunctive relief, and class certification.

The District Court (District Judge Shirley B. Jones) issued a preliminary injunction on September 13, 1982, enjoining the practice of visual strip searches of temporary detainees, except upon probable cause to believe such detainee has weapons or contraband concealed on his or her person, and then only in private. Smith v. Montgomery County, 547 F.Supp. 592, 595 (D. Md. 1982).

The case was later reassigned to District Judge Joseph H. Young, who, by order dated October 26, 2003, dissolved the preliminary injunction for lack of standing, but certified the case as a damages class action, defining the class as: all persons who were 'temporary detainees' (held for 24 hours or less) at the Montgomery County Detention Center ("MCDC") since May 20, 1979, and were strip searched absent probable cause to believe that they possessed either weapons or contraband. Smith v. Montgomery County, 573 F.Supp. 604, 608 (D. Md. 1983). An appeal was taken but dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Smith v. Montgomery County, Md., 740 F.2d 963 (4th Cir. 1984). Defendants later moved for reconsideration and for summary judgment in light of subsequent Supreme Court decisions, Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984) and Block v. Rutherford, 468 U.S. 576 (1984). Judge Young denied reconsideration and summary judgment, finding that the Supreme Court cases cited by the defendants did not change the Court's finding that the blanket strip search policy of Montgomery County was unconstitutional. Smith v. Montgomery County, 607 F.Supp. 1303, 1306 (D. Md. 1985).

Later, Judge Young modified the class definition to reflect the adoption of a standard requiring "reasonable suspicion" of temporary detainees' possession of weapons or contraband (rather than the stricter "probable cause" standard) to justify strip searching, and redefined the class as follows: "all persons who were temporary detainees at the Montgomery County Detention Center since May 20, 1979, and were strip searched absent a reasonable suspicion that they possessed either weapons or contraband. The term temporary detainee is defined to include all persons arrested and held for 24 hours or less." Judge Young also ordered the defendants to produce a written statement to the Court for each temporary detainee arrested for a minor offense for which they believed that they had individualized grounds for a reasonable belief that the detainee was concealing weapons or contraband. The Court also entered an award of nominal damages in the amount of $200 for all members of the class whose Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Plaintiffs were awarded reasonable attorney's fees. Smith v. Montgomery County, 643 F.Supp. 435, 437 (D. Md. 1986).

The District Court later vacated the award of nominal damages and granted plaintiffs' request for a jury trial on their claims for compensatory and punitive damages by letter to counsel dated January 27, 1987. The Court also directed the parties to finalize the class membership lists. After the lists were finalized, both sides sought to modify the class definition, but the Court refused. Smith v. Montgomery County, Md., 117 F.R.D. 372 (D. Md. 1987).

We have no further information and do not know the ultimate disposition of the case.

Summary Authors

Dan Dalton (2/12/2008)

People


Judge(s)

Jones, Shirley Brannock (Maryland)

Young, Joseph H. (Maryland)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Ely, Clausen Jr. (District of Columbia)

Flannery, Ellen J. (District of Columbia)

Genn, Edward L. (Maryland)

Murasky, Donna M. (District of Columbia)

O'Rourke, Timothy J. (District of Columbia)

Spitzer, Arthur (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Evans, Jennifer (Maryland)

Jeffries, Carole A. (Maryland)

Judge(s)

Jones, Shirley Brannock (Maryland)

Young, Joseph H. (Maryland)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Ely, Clausen Jr. (District of Columbia)

Flannery, Ellen J. (District of Columbia)

Genn, Edward L. (Maryland)

Murasky, Donna M. (District of Columbia)

O'Rourke, Timothy J. (District of Columbia)

Spitzer, Arthur (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Evans, Jennifer (Maryland)

Jeffries, Carole A. (Maryland)

Levin, Suzanne (Maryland)

Tobin, Robert G. Jr. (Maryland)

Other Attorney(s)

Symonds, Robert H. (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:82-cv-01323

Memorandum and Order [Granting Preliminary Injunction]

Sept. 13, 1982

Sept. 13, 1982

Order/Opinion

1:82-cv-01323

Memorandum Opinion and Order [Dissolving Preliminary Injunction; Certifying Retrospective Damages Class]

Oct. 26, 1983

Oct. 26, 1983

Order/Opinion

83-02157

83-02197

84-01076

[Order Dismissing Defendant's Appeal]

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Aug. 9, 1984

Aug. 9, 1984

Order/Opinion

1:82-cv-01323

Memorandum [Denying Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration]

April 30, 1985

April 30, 1985

Order/Opinion

1:82-cv-01323

Memorandum [Awarding Nominal Damages]

Sept. 8, 1986

Sept. 8, 1986

Order/Opinion

1:82-cv-01323

Memorandum [Re: Plaintiff Class]

Oct. 9, 1987

Oct. 9, 1987

Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated Sept. 4, 2022, 3:10 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Maryland

Case Type(s):

Jail Conditions

Special Collection(s):

Strip Search Cases

Key Dates

Filing Date: May 20, 1982

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Temporary (less than 24 hour) detainees strip-searched at the Montgomery County Detention Center from 05-20-79 through 10-28-83 without reasonable suspicion to believe they possessed weapons or contraband.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Montgomery County (Montgomery), County

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: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Order Duration: 1982 - 1983

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief granted

Issues

General:

Search policies

Strip search policy

Affected Gender:

Female

Male

Type of Facility:

Government-run