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Blaisure v. Susquehanna County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 8, 2015

EDWIN A. BLAISURE, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF CLASSES OF SIMILARLY SITUATED PERSONS, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY and NICHOLAS CONIGLIARO, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS WARDEN OF THE SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before the Court are Defendants Susquehanna County and Nicholas Conigliaro's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 37), accompanying Statement of Facts (Doc. 38), and Brief in Support (Doc. 39). Also before the Court are Plaintiff Edwin A. Blaisure's ("Blaisure") Brief in Opposition (Doc. 42) to the motion, Plaintiff's Answer to Defendants' Statement of Facts (Doc. 43), and Defendants' Reply Brief to Plaintiff's Brief (Doc. 44).

Plaintiff Blaisure brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his Fourth Amendment right to be secure against unreasonable searches was violated when he was subjected to visual body cavity searches ("strip searches") each time he exited and re-entered the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility ("SCCF"), pursuant to SCCF policy. Blaisure brings suit on behalf of himself and similarly situated prisoners, requesting compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees and court costs, and a declaration that the strip search policy is unconstitutional. Defendant Nicholas Conigliaro ("Conigliaro") is sued individually and in his official capacity as Warden of the SCCF.

Defendants seek summary judgment, contending that there are no disputes of material fact, and that the policy of strip searching prisoners before and after excursions is reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest: maintaining the safety of transporting officers, the public, staff and general population at the SCCF and courthouse. Thus, the practice is a constitutionally-permitted search of prisoners, and does not violate the Fourth Amendment. Because the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff shows that SCCF's strip search policy for prisoner excursions is reasonably related to the legitimate penological interests of prison security and the safety of transporting guards and the public, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

I. Background

A. Factual History

In considering a Motion for Summary Judgment, a court must view the facts in the light most favorable to non-moving party-here, Plaintiff Blaisure and fellow class members.

Plaintiff was detained at SCCF in August and September 2010. ( Def. Statement of Material Facts ("Def. SMF"), Doc 38, ¶ 1; Pl. Res. to Def. SMF, Doc. 43, ¶ 1.) During the six (6) weeks he was held there, Plaintiff left the SCCF on three (3) occasions: on August 30, 2010, to attend a proceeding at the Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas; on September 2, 2010 to attend a proceeding before a Magistrate in Montrose, Pennsylvania; and on September 16, to attend a dental appointment. (Doc. 38, ¶ 2; Doc. 43, ¶ 2.)

Pursuant to SCCF policy, Plaintiff was strip searched on each of the above occasions both when he left the SCCF and when he returned, consistent with the facility's policy that all inmates be strip searched upon exit and re-entry to the prison.[1] (Doc. 38, ¶ 3; Doc. 43, ¶ 3.) Defendants state that they have "a blanket policy of strip searching every inmate upon leaving and reentering the prison during the time of their incarceration." ( Def.'s Answer, Doc. 9, ¶ 4; Pl.'s Compl., Doc. 1, ¶ 16.) Plaintiff was not physically touched during the searches. (Doc. 38, ¶ 4-5; Doc. 43, ¶ 4-5.)

SCCF's strip search policy for newly-admitted inmates is that the institution considers the individualized circumstances of each person when deciding whether to strip search them. (Doc. 43, ¶ 3.)

The strip search policy for detainees temporarily departing the jail is set out in SCCF Policy Statements Nos. 13.1 and 15.1. (Doc. 43-1, Ex. A, Ex. B. ) Plaintiff describes how he was strip searched in accordance with these policies:

Plaintiff was required to "remove all of his clothing, " SCCF Policy No. 15.1 (attached as Exhibit A) at § III.A, "lift his penis with one hand" so that SCCF personnel could "inspect the underside for anything taped to [the penis], " id. at § V.C.2.i., "lift the scrotum" for inspection, id., and "bend forward at the waist and grip his[]buttocks in his[] hands and spread them apart, squat and cough several times." Id. at § V.C.2.k. SCCF staff "[v]isually examine[d] [Plaintiff's anus] for contraband." Id.

(Doc. 43, ¶ 3(a)).

Female inmates experience a ...


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