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DAVIS v. CITY OF CAMDEN

April 6, 1987

Deborah A. Davis, Plaintiff,
v.
City Of Camden; R. Douglas Holmes, individually, and as Camden City Chief of Police; Sgt. Virgil Ferrari, Individually and as Camden City Chief Officer on Duty the Night in Question; Joseph D. Hart, Individually and as the Arresting Officer on the Night in Question; William Simon, Individually and as Sheriff of the County of Camden; Shirley Williams, Individually and as the Female Person who Performed Strip Search on Plaintiff; County Of Camden, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHEN

 COHEN, SENIOR JUDGE:

 In this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and under pendant New Jersey law, for damages resulting from an allegedly unconstitutional strip search, plaintiff Deborah Davis moves for summary judgment against defendant William Simon, the Sheriff of Camden County; defendant Shirley Williams, the jail matron who conducted the strip search; and defendant Camden County. For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion shall be granted in part and denied in part.

 FACTS

 On May 8, 1984, plaintiff phoned the City of Camden Police Department for assistance with a neighborhood disturbance. An officer arrived to investigate the situation. Although the facts are not totally clear, it appears from plaintiff's deposition that she accompanied the officer to the City of Camden Police Station in order to sign a complaint against her neighbors. Plaintiff's deposition at 124. For some unexplained reason, the police ran an identification check on plaintiff, determined that there were several warrants outstanding against her, and placed her under arrest. Apparently, some of these warrants, which involved motor vehicle violations, later were discovered to relate to another woman named "Debbie" Davis, but others, some involving parking tickets and another an assault and battery warrant issued in 1978, which charged plaintiff with cutting complainant with a knife, related to plaintiff Deborah Davis. *fn1"

 After her arrest, bail was set at $525, which plaintiff could not post. The policy of the police department was to transport arrestees who could not post bail to the Camden County Jail, to which plaintiff accordingly was taken. At that time, the Camden County Sheriff's Office maintained a blanket "policy of having an officer of the same sex strip search any person unable to post bail who was to be lodged in the Camden County Jail," regardless of the nature of the charged offense (Response of defendants Sheriff William Simon and County of Camden to Plaintiff's Request for Admissions, December 3, 1985). The County strip search policy was mandated by a New Jersey regulation. N.J.A.C. § 10A:31-3.12(2) (1979). *fn2" Consequently, upon her arrival at the jail, plaintiff was strip searched. She was taken to the bathroom by a female jail matron (defendant Williams), told to remove all of her clothes, and then asked to squat so that a visual inspection of her orafices could be made. The matron did not touch plaintiff.

 Plaintiff remained in jail overnight. The next morning, she was taken before a judge, who set bail at seventy five dollars; presumably, bail was lowered because it became apparent that plaintiff was not the "Debbie" Davis named in the warrants involving motor vehicle violations. Plaintiff was able to post bail, and was released from the jail.

 Plaintiff apparently paid the money she owed on her parking tickets in June, 1984. Plaintiff's deposition at 130. Also in June, 1984, the assault and battery charges against plaintiff were dismissed by a municipal court judge because the complainant failed to appear. Plaintiff's deposition at 11-12.

 In response to a request for admissions sent by plaintiff to defendants Sheriff Simon and County of Camden, these defendants, with commendable candor, "admitted that the correctional officers employed by the Camden County Sheriff's Department and assigned to the Camden County Jail who were involved in the processing of plaintiff did not have probable cause nor reasonable suspicion to believe that the plaintiff was concealing weapons, drugs or contraband."

 Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging federal constitutional violations and pendant state law claims. She now moves for summary judgment against defendants County of Camden, Sheriff Simon, and Matron Williams.

 I. CONSTITUTIONALITY OF STRIP SEARCH

 The threshold question in this § 1983 case is whether the strip search violated plaintiff's constitutional rights. *fn3"

 In Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447, 99 S. Ct. 1861 (1979), the Supreme Court, in the context of evaluating and ultimately upholding the constitutionality of a policy under which pretrial detainees were subjected to body cavity searches after each contact with outside visitors, stated:

 
The test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application. In each case it requires a balancing of the need for the particular search against the invasion of personal rights that the search entails. Courts must consider the scope of the particular intrusion, the manner in which it is ...

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