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BRADLEY v. U.S.
September 10, 2001
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nicholas H. Politan, U.S.D.J.
The Court will treat this as a summary judgment motion because material
beyond the pleadings has been considered. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b); 56.*fn1
On April 5, 1999, Plaintiff, Yvette Bradley, ("Plaintiff") was
returning from a vacation in Jamaica when she was stopped United States
Customs Inspectors at Newark International Airport. Plaintiff was singled
out for a luggage search, subjected to a pat down search, and ultimately
released by Customs officers. No contraband was found on Plaintiff's
Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on May 12, 2000 against the United States
of America, the United States Customs Service and certain agents
thereof. An Amended Complaint was filed on February 6, 2001 naming three
individual Customs inspectors as defendants. The gravamen of Plaintiff's
Complaint is that she was discriminated against when she was selected for
a search, claiming that the reason she was selected is because she is a
black woman. Plaintiff further claims that the search was unreasonably
intrusive and invaded Plaintiff's privacy rights.
Defendants contend that Plaintiff was initially selected for a luggage
search because, based on their observations, suspicions were raised.
Defendants claim that Plaintiff was wearing an unusual hat under which
drugs could be secreted, was wearing clothing which appeared too heavy
considering she had just come from a warm climate, and the country from
which Plaintiff had just arrived, Jamaica, is a known source country for
narcotics. While the parties disagree on whether Plaintiff's dress was
loose-fitting or snug, it is undisputed that Plaintiff was wearing a long
dress with a jacket over it, was wearing an unusual hat, and was not
Plaintiff alleges in the Amended Complaint that the Customs Officer who
initially selected Plaintiff for a luggage search was Defendant Officer
Anthony Scaringella ("Scaringella"). Defendants deny this, contending
that it was not Scaringella who initially selected Plaintiff for the
search, but that Plaintiff was sent to Scaringella's belt by another
officer, and Scaringella performed the luggage inspection. Plaintiff's
brief in opposition to this motion appears to concede that in fact it was
not Scaringella who initially selected Plaintiff for further inspection.
Defendants have submitted sworn statements indicating that Plaintiff was
belligerent and hostile throughout the luggage search, using profanity
throughout. Scaringella Decl., ¶¶ 10-14, Townes Decl., ¶¶ 3-7.
Scaringella searched Plaintiff's suitcase, backpack, and purse, he
instructed Plaintiff to follow two female officers, Defendants Jacqueline
Castleberry ("Castleberry") and Michelle Mazzarulli Quinlan
("Mazzarulli")*fn2 into a small room. Scaringella testifies that his
suspicions were raised based on Plaintiff's hostile behavior. Scaringella
Decl., ¶ 14.
Plaintiff contends that inside of this room she was subjected to an
"abusive" "involuntary non-routine personal search." Am. Compl., ¶
27. Plaintiff was first told to remove her shoes, and no illegal material
was found inside. Plaintiff was then told to remove her jacket and to
stand against the wall with her legs spread apart and her palms to the
Then, Plaintiff asserts, either Mazzarulli or Castleberry approached
Plaintiff from behind and through her "sheer slip dress, proceeded to
slowly rub her hands all over and beyond the surface of Ms. Bradley's
entire body, including her breasts and the inner and outer labia of her
vagina, completely disregarding the fact that it was apparent there were
no underwear or contraband under Ms. Bradley's dress." Am. Compl.,
¶ 27. The declarations of Castleberry and Mazzarulli suggest that it
was Mazzarulli who conducted the pat down search. Castleberry Decl.,
¶ 12; Mazzarulli Decl., ¶ 16. Plaintiff appears to accept this
fact as true. Bradley Aff., ¶¶ 25, 26, 28.
When the search concluded, Plaintiff immediately filed a complaint with
Defendant Robert Lucania, the Customs Supervisory Inspector on duty on
the evening of April 5, 1999. Plaintiff indicates that the total course
of events, including the subsequent filing of a complaint, lasted
forty-five minutes. Bradley Aff., ¶ 34.*fn3 The following day,
Plaintiff contacted Defendant Ricardo Bowen, the Passenger Service
Representative of Customs at Newark Airport, and again lodged a complaint
and requested the badge numbers for all Customs officers involved in the
April 5th selection and search. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Bowen
later notified Plaintiff that his investigation revealed that the reason
Plaintiff was initially chosen for a search was because of the unusual
hat she was wearing. Am. Compl., ¶ 31. Plaintiff contends that this
could not have been the true reason for the search because a group of
young white male individuals who were wearing baseball caps were not
selected by Customs officers for a search. Id., ¶ 32.
Plaintiff further contends that black women are disproportionately
selected and searched by Customs officers on the basis of their race and
gender and that the United States Customs Service has a custom and policy
of promoting such behavior. Id., ¶ 40. The Complaint speaks
generally of a class of black women and avers that there is a pattern
amongst Customs officials in disproportionately selecting black women for
searches. This case, however, has not been pled nor certified as a class
action. Yvette Bradley is the sole Plaintiff.
Plaintiff alleges that Mazzarulli, Castleberry, and Scaringella acted
unlawfully in subjecting Plaintiff to a search without the requisite
suspicion, and that she was held incommunicado. Id., ¶¶ 49, 50.
Plaintiff also specifically claims that Defendants Raymond W. Kelly,
Samuel H. Banks, Charles Winwood, Ricardo Bowen, Kathleen Haage, and
Robert Lucania (all agents of the U.S. Customs Service) in their official
(a) improperly authorized, encouraged or directed
Customs Inspectors to engage in non-routine personal
searches, or condoned such searches, based on race and
gender, which are unduly invasive and without
sufficient legal basis;
(b) recklessly allowed Customs Inspectors at Newark to
conduct non-routine searches without independent
evaluation by a Supervisor of whether a search was
necessary and appropriate, thereby violating Customs'
own internal rules;
(c) failed to properly train and instruct Customs
Inspectors to prevent race and gender from influencing
the selection of persons to be examined or searched;
(d) failed to properly supervise and exercise
reasonable control over Customs Inspectors at Newark
Airport to prevent discrimination in the selection of
passengers for examination and searches and to prevent
excessively intrusive searches.
Id., ¶ 51. Plaintiff maintains that as a result of her experience
with Customs officers on April 5, 1999, she has suffered extreme
emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation, shame, embarrassment,
and loss of personal integrity and dignity. Id., ¶ 52.
Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to make out a prima facie
case for each of the claims in the Amended Complaint. Defendants
Scaringella, Mazzarulli, and Castleberry further argue that, even
assuming the facts as alleged by Plaintiff were true, they are entitled
to qualified immunity from suit.
A. Standard Governing Motion for Summary Judgment
All Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims alleged. The
standard governing a summary judgment motion is set forth in
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), which provides, in pertinent part, that:
[t]he judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if
the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with
the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and that the moving
party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty ...