On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil No. 02-cv-02152) District Judge: Hon. James M. Munley.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sloviter, Circuit Judge.
Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) July 11, 2005
Before: SLOVITER and McKEE, Circuit Judges, and FULLAM,*fn1 District Judge
Acting pro se, Plaintiffs/Appellants Teresa and Larry Neumeyer brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking a declaratory judgment against Defendants/Appellees Jeffrey Beard, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and Kenneth Kyler, the Superintendent of the State Correctional Institute at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (hereafter "prison officials"), that the practice of subjecting prison visitors' vehicles to random searches violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania rejected this claim as a matter of law and thus entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants. Neumeyer v. Beard, 301 F. Supp. 2d 349 (M.D. Pa. 2004). The Neumeyers appeal.*fn2
Teresa Neumeyer's father ("prisoner") is a prisoner incarcerated at the State Correctional Institute at Huntingdon ("SCIH"), an institution managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Neumeyer, 301 F. Supp. 2d at 350. Mr. and Ms. Neumeyer, who are citizens of Michigan, make fairly regular trips to visit the prisoner at the SCIH.
The SCIH maintains a parking lot for use by visitors such as the Neumeyers while they are visiting the facility. Notably, some inmates have outside work details and such inmates "may have access to visitors' vehicles parked at the prison." 301 F. Supp. 2d at 353.
Prison officials have posted large signs at all entranceways to the prison and immediately in front of the visitors' parking lot. In part, these signs read:
THIS IS A STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION. ALL PERSONS, VEHICLES AND PERSONAL PROPERTY ENTERING OR BROUGHT ON THESE GROUNDS ARE SUBJECT TO SEARCH. DRUG DETECTION DOGS AND ELECTRONIC DEVICES MAY BE USED FOR THIS PURPOSE.
Kyler Decla. ¶ 8. The signs further inform visitors that anyone caught bringing prohibited items onto the SCIH's property will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Under SCIH/DOC policy, prison visitor vehicles parked on facility grounds are subject to random searches after the owner or operator signs a pre-printed "Consent To Search Vehicle" form. 301 F .Supp. 2d at 350. If an individual refuses to sign this form, SCIH/DOC officials simply refuse the would-be visitor entry to the prison, ask the visitor to leave the premises, and do not pursue further action. As found by the District Court: "If a prison visitor refuses to provide written consent permitting SCIH corrections officers to search his or her vehicle, then the visitor will not be allowed to enter the prison to visit any prisoner on that day." Id. Compare with Spear v. Sowders, 71 F.3d 626, 632 (6th Cir. 1995) ("Spear [a visitor to the prison] claims that [prison] officials told her that she could either consent to the search, or that she would be detained while they secured a warrant and then she would be forcibly searched if necessary."). If, however, the search proceeds and the SCIH/DOC officials uncover contraband or evidence of illegality, they will notify the Pennsylvania State Police.
The SCIH/DOC policy does not require corrections officers to possess a search warrant, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion before they may seek to search a vehicle parked on prison grounds. In addition, the SCIH/DOC officials do not seek permission to search the vehicle of every visitor who parks in the lot. As found by the District Court, "[t]here are no written standards as to how the searches are to be ...