United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
SALAHUDDIN F. SMART Plaintiff,
CAMDEN COUNTY DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, Defendants.
B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter arises upon Defendants Camden County Department of
Corrections and Camden County Board of Chosen
Freeholders' (“Defendants”) motion for
summary judgment. For the reasons set forth in the opinion
below, this motion is GRANTED.
Salahuddin F. Smart (“Plaintiff”) filed suit
pro se on December 21, 2012, alleging violations of
his Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff asked for unspecified
damages stemming from a strip search that occurred while he
was an inmate at Camden County Correctional Facility
December 7, 2012, a Corrections Officer received information
that an inmate had reported that his cell mate had
“passed off a switch blade knife to the 3SA inside
runner this morning at breakfast.” See Def.
Br. at 1; Def. Ex. C. That information was passed to his
superiors and triggered a lock down of 3 South B block.
Id. All of the inmates of 3 South B block, including
Plaintiff, were strip-searched in the shower area and held
until their rooms were searched. See id.; Pl. Compl.
(Doc. No. 1). No knife was found. See Def. Br. at 1.
court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the
moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An
issue is “material” to the dispute if it could
alter the outcome, and a dispute of a material fact is
“genuine” if “a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the non-moving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249
(1986); Matsushida Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (“Where the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine
issue for trial.'”) (quoting First National
Bank of Arizona v. Cities Service Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289
(1968)). In deciding whether there is any genuine issue for
trial, the court is not to weigh evidence or decide issues of
fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Because fact and
credibility determinations are for the jury, the non-moving
party's evidence is to be believed and ambiguities
construed in her favor. Id. at 255;
Matsushida, 475 U.S. at 587.
the movant bears the burden of demonstrating that there is no
genuine issue of material fact, the non-movant likewise must
present more than mere allegations or denials to successfully
oppose summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.
The nonmoving party must at least present probative evidence
from which jury might return a verdict in his favor.
Id. at 257. The movant is entitled to summary
judgment where the non-moving party fails to “make a
showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, and on which that party
will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
is no factual dispute about whether Plaintiff was
strip-searched-the parties agree that he was. The United
States Supreme Court has held that there is no Fourth
Amendment right to be free from strip-searches in prison, as
long as the search is conducted reasonably. See,
e.g., Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 539
(1979). The question of reasonableness depends upon a
balancing of the requisite personal invasion versus the need
for the strip search. Parkell v. Danberg, et al, 833
F.3d 313, 326 (3d Cir. 2016) (citing Bell, 441 U.S.
at 559); see also Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders
of Cty. of Burlington, 566 U.S. 318, 326 (2012).
Procedures that are, for example, vindictive or excessive
could potentially constitute Fourth Amendment violations, but
“the contours of prisoners' Fourth Amendment
rights” are “very narrow.”
Parkell, 833 F.3d at 326.
alleges that the official report of the incident in question
was based on false information because the Corrections
Officer who received the tip about the knife was a
“racist.” Def. Br. at 5; See Def.
Exhibit E, Pl. Dep. Tr. at 50-55. But Plaintiff offers no
probative evidence from which a jury might return a verdict
in his favor-instead, his case relies solely upon his own
allegations. Furthermore, the circumstances surrounding
Plaintiff's search were reasonable-prison authorities
have offered evidence of a reason to believe that there was a
weapon in the block. See Def. Br. at 5. As
Defendants note in their brief, not searching
Plaintiff and others under these circumstances might well
have been unreasonable. Id. Therefore, under the
balancing test set forth in Parkell, the need for
the search greatly outweighed any personal rights invaded by
the search's nature. See Parkell, 833 F.3d at