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Kyles v. Charney

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 8, 2018

ELLIOTT G. KYLES, Plaintiff,



         The plaintiff, who is representing himself, is an inmate at the Dodge Correctional Institution. Dkt. No. 11. He filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that the defendants violated his constitutional rights. Dkt. No. 1. After identifying problems in the plaintiff's original complaint, the court gave him the opportunity to file an amended complaint, dkt. no. 8; he did so on February 12, 2018, dkt. no. 9. The court will screen the plaintiff's amended complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a).

         I. Screening the Plaintiff's Complaint

         A. Federal Screening Standard

         The court must dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff raises claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).

         To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows a court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983, a plaintiff must allege that: 1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) the defendant was acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Village of North Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The court gives a pro se plaintiff's allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         B. The Plaintiff's Allegations

         The plaintiff alleges that, on December 22, 2015, he was brought into the Brown County Jail on a felony warrant and a new charge of possession of a firearm by a felon. Dkt. No. 9 at 2. The plaintiff asserts that, because a firearm had already been found, there was no probable cause “to strip search for drugs.” Id. According to the plaintiff, however, defendant police officer Ricardo Escalante ordered defendant jail guards Beau Charney and Jeremy Nelson to strip search the plaintiff to look for drugs and to bring the plaintiff's clothing to Escalante so he could search the plaintiff's clothes for drugs. Id. at 3.

         The plaintiff alleges that Charney and Nelson strip searched him before he was booked into the jail. Id. at 3, 5. They allegedly took him to a stall, told him to remove his clothes, open his mouth, hold out his hands, hold up his arms to show his armpits, lift up his feet one at a time to show the bottoms of his feet and spread his buttocks. Id. They then gave him a uniform and took him back to intake in the waiting area. Id. According to the plaintiff, Charney gave the plaintiff's clothes to Escalante, who said he found drugs in the plaintiff's clothing. Id.

         The plaintiff states that the search violated the Fourth Amendment and Wisconsin statute §968.255, because the defendants performed the search without probable cause and without written authorization proving lawfulness. Id. at 6.

         C. The Court's Analysis

         The Supreme Court has explained that “[c]orrectional officers have a significant interest in conducting a thorough search as a standard part of the intake process.” Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, 566 U.S. 318, 330 (2012). This is because new inmates may introduce risks to a jail, including bringing in contraband such as weapons, drugs or alcohol, all of which may make jail staff and inmates unsafe. Id. at 332. As a result, the Supreme Court held that under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, jail staff may conduct strip searches of all people being admitted to the general population of a jail, regardless of the severity of the person's crime, the behavior of the person or the criminal history of the person. Id. at 338.

         This ruling does not protect defendants in situations where “officers engag[e] in intentional humiliation and other abusive practices, ” but the plaintiff has not alleged that the officers stripped him in order to humiliate or abuse him. He is not challenging the manner in which the search was conducted-he describes a standard strip search with no physical contact by the defendants. He is challenging the fact that the strip search was conducted at all, arguing that it was unnecessary because “a firearm had already been found.” Dkt. No. 9 at 2. Because the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment allow strip searches under the circumstances alleged by the plaintiff, his belief that the search was not ...

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