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Case Name Florence v. County of Burlington JC-NJ-0022
Docket / Court 1-05-cv-03619-JHR-JS ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Jail Conditions
Special Collection Strip Search Cases
Case Summary
The plaintiff in this case was arrested erroneously on a warrant for failure to pay for a traffic violation; in fact, he had already paid. He was then booked into jail, and strip searched. He brought suit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, seeking relief under 42 U ... read more >
The plaintiff in this case was arrested erroneously on a warrant for failure to pay for a traffic violation; in fact, he had already paid. He was then booked into jail, and strip searched. He brought suit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches. He maintained that persons arrested for a minor offense could not be required to remove their clothing and expose their genitals to close visual inspection as a routine part of the intake process. Rather, he contended—as had been held by most of the federal courts of appeals—officials could conduct this kind of search only if they had reason to suspect a particular jail prisoner of concealing a weapon, drugs, or other contraband.

The district court certified a class of individuals who were charged with a nonindictable offense under New Jersey law, processed at either the Burlington County or Essex County jail, and directed to strip naked even though an officer had not articulated any reasonable suspicion they were concealing contraband. After discovery, in February 2009, the court granted petitioner's motion for summary judgment on the unlawful search claim. It concluded that any policy of strip searching nonindictable offenders without reasonable suspicion violated the Fourth Amendment. 595 F. Supp. 2d 492 (D.N.J. 2009) (Rodriguez, J.). The district court certified the issue to the 3d Circuit for immediate review. 657 F. Supp. 2d 504 (D.N.J. 2009).

A divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed, in an opinion by Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman. The Third Circuit held that the procedures described by the district court struck a reasonable balance between inmate privacy and the security needs of the two jails. 621 F.3d 296 (2010).

The federal courts of appeals had split on the question whether the Fourth Amendment allowed what are usually referred to as "blanket" strip search policies, in which no individualized suspicion need exist to justify a strip search of an arrestee. In a 5–4 opinion, with the majority by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court took the position that—at least if a prisoner was about to be housed in a jail's general population—no such individualized suspicion is required, no matter how minor the arrest offense. Accordingly, on April 2, 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed the Third Circuit opinion.

Judge Rodriguez had stayed further activity in the case pending first the appeal and then Supreme Court review, and on May 24, 2012 the case was restored to the active docket. On June 21, 2012 the defendants moved for summary judgment. After 8 months of meetings and extension requests, the court "on its own accord" noted that the parties had ongoing settlement discussions with the Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider.

On February 21, 2013, the court terminated the pending motion for summary judgment in light of the settlement discussion with Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider. On March 28, 2013, the court dismissed the case as settled but a dispute between the plaintiff and plaintiff’s counsel regarding the disposition of the $60,000 that the defendant agreed to pay stalled the case.

On July 22, 2013, the plaintiff filed a brief opposing a discovery motion post-termination, alleging that the retainer agreement was unenforceable and that there was a fee dispute. On the next day, the court ordered the parties to have a conference call to resolve the current fee dispute without the court's intervention. On October 21, 2013, the court denied the motion for settlement that was filed earlier by the defendants because of ongoing dispute amongst plaintiff and his counsel about how to distribute the settlement proceeds. The court determined that the issue would be addressed and decided in connection with a pending New Jersey fee arbitration.

As of March 2017, there have been no further updates to this case. There is no reason to believe the case is ongoing.

- 05/03/2012
MJ Koo - 03/12/2017

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Search policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) County of Burlington, New Jersey
Essex Couny
Plaintiff Description From two years before this action until its termination date, all committed to Burlington or Essex county jails on charges not involving drugs, weapons or felony violence subjected to strip search without individualized finding of reasonable suspicion.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 07/19/2005
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing JC-NY-0024 : Augustin v. Jablonsky (E.D.N.Y.)
JC-CA-0110 : Amador v. Baca (C.D. Cal.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Florence v. Burlington
Date: Jun. 27, 2011
By: ACLU of New Jersey
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
Date: Spring 2008
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis Faculty)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
JC-NJ-0022-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
JC-NJ-0022-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 161] (595 F.Supp.2d 492)
JC-NJ-0022-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Memorandum Opinion and Order (certifying to Third Circuit) [ECF# 188] (657 F.Supp.2d 504)
JC-NJ-0022-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
U.S. Court of Appeals
Opinion (3rd Cir.) (621 F.3d 296)
JC-NJ-0022-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Supreme Court
Opinion (SCOTUS) (132 S.Ct. 1510)
JC-NJ-0022-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Supreme Court website
Order [ECF# 236]
JC-NJ-0022-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Reply Brief Supporting Opposition to Discovery Motion Post Termination [ECF# 266]
JC-NJ-0022-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 303]
JC-NJ-0022-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Hardiman, Thomas Michael (W.D. Pa., Third Circuit) show/hide docs
Kennedy, Anthony McLeod (Ninth Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
Kugler, Robert B. (D.N.J.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Pollak, Louis Heilprin (E.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
Rodriguez, Joseph H. (D.N.J.) show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0022-0003 | JC-NJ-0022-0004 | JC-NJ-0022-0006 | JC-NJ-0022-9000
Schneider, Joel (D.N.J.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0022-0008 | JC-NJ-0022-9000
Sloviter, Dolores Korman (Third Circuit) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Calabro, Michael V. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0022-0005 | JC-NJ-0022-0007 | JC-NJ-0022-9000
Lask, Susan Chana (New York) show/hide docs
JC-NJ-0022-0005 | JC-NJ-0022-9000
Poplar, Carl D. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
Riback, William A. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Didonato, J. Brooks (New Jersey) show/hide docs
Ruddy, Alan R. (New Jersey) show/hide docs

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