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December 12, 1985


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William T. Hart, District Judge.


The plaintiff, Gary Adrow, is a corrections officer at the Cook County Department of Corrections. Adrow brought this action against Lieutenant Willie J. Johnson and Inspector Geanes, also employees of the Department of Corrections, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.


Plaintiff worked a three p.m. to eleven p.m. shift at Cook County Jail on October 29, 1984. After plaintiff left the jail for a lunch break, Geanes received a telephone call from a person who refused to give his name. The caller told Geanes that a corrections officer who was then at lunch would be carrying narcotics into the jail when he returned. Geanes told Johnson about the call and they determined that plaintiff was the only officer who was then at lunch and would be returning to the jail.

When plaintiff returned, he was stopped by Geanes and Johnson and taken into a room, where he was searched.*fn1 Plaintiff was told to empty his pockets and Geanes inspected the contents. Plaintiff was then told to remove his shirt, undershirt, shoes, socks and belt and was told to roll his pants down several inches from the top. In addition, plaintiff's handcuff case and lunch were searched.

Plaintiff contends that this search, based solely on an anonymous tip, violated his fourth amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and that he is therefore entitled to damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn2

Defendants make essentially two arguments in support of their motion for summary judgment. First, they argue that the search of plaintiff was "reasonable" within the meaning of the fourth amendment and that plaintiff's constitutional rights were not violated. Second, they argue that even if the search violated the fourth amendment, defendants acted within their qualified immunity and are therefore not liable for damages under § 1983.

A. Reasonableness of the Search

The fourth amendment prohibits only unreasonable searchs and seizures. Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 147, 45 S.Ct. 280, 283, 69 L.Ed. 543 (1925). Determining whether a particular search was reasonable "requires a balancing of the need for the particular search against the invasion of personal rights that the search entails." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1884, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979). This balancing requires a consideration of "the scope of the particular intrusion, the manner in which it is conducted, the justification for initiating it, and the place in which it is so conducted." Id.

Courts have recognized that prisons are "unique places `fraught with serious security dangers.'" Security & Law Enforcement Employees, Dist. Council 82 v. Carey, 737 F.2d 187, 201 (2d Cir. 1984) (quoting Bell, 441 U.S. at 559, 99 S.Ct. at 1884). It is because of these special security dangers and the attendant need for special security precautions that the ordinary constitutional requirement of a warrant based on probable cause is not required to satisfy the fourth amendment in some cases where searches have been conducted in prisons. See, e.g., Carey, 737 F.2d at 203. However, courts have also recognized that individuals do not lose all of their constitutional rights when they enter a prison, whether they be prisoners, visitors, or guards. See, Bell, 441 U.S. at 558-59, 99 S.Ct. at 1884-85 (prisoners); Hunter v. Auger, 672 F.2d 668, 674 (8th Cir. 1982) (visitors); Carey, 737 F.2d at 201 (guards).

The question is whether this particular search was reasonable in the absence of a warrant. "In making this determination the reasonableness test `requires, at a minimum, that the facts upon which an intrusion is based be capable of measurement against "an object standard," whether this be probable cause or a less stringent test.'" Carey, 737 F.2d at 204 (quoting Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 654, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1396, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979)). The question then becomes what test or standard should be required.

Defendants argue that the search of plaintiff was a "frisk," that a frisk involves a relatively small intrusion on the plaintiff, and that frisks are a routine part of prison procedures so that plaintiff's expectation of privacy is reduced.*fn3 Defendants argue that there should therefore be a very low standard, or no standard at all.

Plaintiff, on the other hand, characterizes this search as a "strip search" and argues that a standard of "reasonable suspicion" should be applied. At least two courts have held that "reasonable suspicion" is the proper standard for determining whether a strip search of prison employees is constitutional. See, Carey, supra, 737 F.2d at 204; McDonell v. Hunter, 612 F. Supp. 1122, 1129 (S.D.Iowa 1985); cf. Mary Beth G. v. City of Chicago, 723 F.2d 1263, 1273 (7th Cir. 1983) (requiring reasonable suspicion to strip search minor offender detainees).

However this search is characterized, it does not appear to fall within the description of a "frisk."*fn4 The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has identified "the standard frisk search" as "an outside-the-clothes check for concealed weapons." Madyun v. Franzen, 704 F.2d 954, 956 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 996, 104 S.Ct. 493, 78 L.Ed.2d 687 (1983). This emphasis on being "outside-the-clothes" is consistent with the use of the term in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968), the famous case that made ...

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