United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
SALAHUDDIN F. SMART Plaintiff,
CAMDEN COUNTY DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, et al. Defendants.
B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter arises upon Defendants Camden County Department of
Corrections, Warden David S. Owens, Lt. Reimer, Lt. Adkins,
Sgt. McCarthy, Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders,
Sgt. Schutts, Sgt. Grunlock, Corrections Officer Sharper,
Corrections Officer Iembsea, and Scot McCray's
(“Defendants”) motion for summary judgment. For
the reasons set forth in the opinion below, this motion is
Salahuddin F. Smart (“Plaintiff”) and
co-plaintiff, Carlo S. Clark,  filed suit pro se on
April 11, 2014. They alleged Fourth Amendment violations
stemming from a strip-search that occurred on March 18, 2014,
while both were inmates at Camden County Correctional
Facility. See Def. Br. at 1; Compl. Ex. A. Plaintiff
and Mr. Clark sought money damages, injunctive relief, and
class status. Id.
March 18, 2014, Corrections Officer Sharper told Sgt.
McCarthy that an inmate had passed a note stating
“Carlitto” was in possession of razor blades.
See Def. Br. at 2; Def. SUMF at 1; Def. SUMF Ex. C.
Sgt. McCarthy informed his supervisor, Lt. Adkins, of the
situation; Lt. Atkins instructed Sgt. McCarthy to
“shakedown” the entire housing block and look for
the weapons described. See Def. SUMF at 1-2. Inmates
housed in 3 South B block and 4 South B block, including
Plaintiff, were individually strip-searched. Id.
During the shakedown, Corrections Officer Sharper found a
razor blade in a different inmate's cell. Id.
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 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.
is no factual dispute that a strip-search took place here.
See Compl.; Def. SUMF at 1. Instead, the question is
whether Plaintiff has offered any evidence that creates a
genuine issue for trial. He has not-the record taken as a
whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for
Plaintiff. Zenith Radio Corp. 475 U.S. at 587.
Plaintiff has offered no evidence of an unreasonable search.
Instead, Plaintiff alleges that the strip-search was
unreasonable because Defendants did not have a reasonable
belief that Plaintiff-specifically-was hiding any contraband.
See Compl.; Def. SUMF Ex. B at 2. This argument
fails. Defendants had a reasonable belief that weapons were
present in the relevant housing blocks because of information
that they received. Def. SUMF at 1-2. Defendants acted on
that reasonable suspicion and found a weapon. Id.
Defendants' decision to search was reasonable, the
searches were conducted in a reasonable manner, and the need
for the search vastly outweighed the search's invasion on
Plaintiff's privacy. Plaintiff has offered no evidence
suggesting otherwise, and thus has failed to demonstrate that
there is any genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477
U.S. at 256.
reasons set forth above, Defendants' motion for ...