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Mulvania v. Sheriff of Rock Island County

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 9, 2017

Joan E. Mulvania, et al, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
Sheriff of Rock Island County and Rock Island County, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued November 29, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 4:10-cv-04080-SLD-JEH - Sara Darrow, Judge.

          Before Bauer, Flaum, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          Hamilton, Circuit Judge.

         This appeal presents two distinct claims. The first arises from plaintiff Joan Mulvania's arrest and detention at the Rock Island County Jail in November 2010. Mulvania claims the jail has a widespread practice of conducting strip searches with excessive force and without accommodating people who are experiencing mental distress. The second claim arises from ten other plaintiffs who joined the suit to challenge the Rock Island Sheriff's policy that requires female detainees to wear either white underwear or no underwear at all. They argue the policy is not rationally related to a legitimate governmental objective and that it impairs their dignity without sufficient justification. They also seek certification to pursue that claim as a class.

         We affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment against Mulvania on both of her claims. We reverse the district court's grant of summary judgment against the other plaintiffs on the underwear policy but we affirm denial of class certification on that claim. We recount the facts as told in the parties' undisputed statement of facts. Where a dispute exists, we note the dispute and resolve it in favor of plaintiffs for purposes of summary judgment, giving them the benefit of reasonable inferences. E.g., Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009).

         I. Mulvania's Claims

         A. Undisputed Facts of Mulvania's Arrest and Detention

         On November 7, 2010, two police officers arrested Joan Mulvania for domestic battery. They brought her to the Rock Island County Jail, but upon arrival, Mulvania refused to exit the vehicle. Several corrections officers moved her from the car to a holding cell in the jail. Mulvania's speech was slurred, and she screamed obscenities, refused to cooperate with the officers, and was physically combative. The officers testified that Mulvania appeared intoxicated and was acting erratically. Mulvania claims she was experiencing a "post-traumatic stress disorder flashback." She disputes that the officers smelled alcohol on her breath. Defendants acknowledge that they did not smell alcohol, but they rely on hospital laboratory results from that day in which Mulvania tested positive for cocaine and cannabinoids.

         Once in the holding cell, Mulvania refused to change from her clothes into a jail uniform, which is part of the jail's booking process for all detainees. The defendants claim that misdemeanor detainees are permitted to change in a private room when they are cooperative; however, the plaintiffs dispute this. When detainees are not cooperative, the Sheriff permits officers to use reasonable force to ensure compliance with the policy.

         After Mulvania refused to change into the jail uniform, two female corrections officers and three or four male officers restrained her and removed her clothing. They placed Mulvania on her stomach, held her arms straight over her head, and then lifted her shirt off. During this process, Mulvania banged her head against the floor and yelled, "They're going to rape me." After they removed her clothing, the officers draped a jail uniform over her naked body and left the holding cell. Several minutes later, Mulvania had a seizure and was brought to the hospital. After she returned from the hospital, she was released from the jail without any charges.

         B. Procedural History

         In November 2010 Mulvania filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Rock Island County and the Sheriff of Rock Island County. She alleged that the officers unlawfully arrested her, detained her without probable cause, conducted an unconstitutional strip search, used unreasonable force by shackling her, continued to detain her after she was informed that she would not be prosecuted, and sexually assaulted her because of her sexual orientation. Mulvania amended her complaint numerous times over the next several years, dropping most of her original claims and adding new ones, including the underwear claim.

         On April 15, 2015, Mulvania sought to file a fourth amended complaint in which she intended to "delete all of the allegations pertaining to the individual defendants and to clarify plaintiff's official capacity claims against the Sheriff." She also sought to add a new claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district court denied her motion as it pertained to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court said the new claim did not relate back to the third amended complaint and that it was not in the interest of justice to amend the complaint once again to add that new claim after so many years of litigation. The court permitted plaintiffs to file a fourth amended complaint "that includes only the allegations related to the underwear claim."

         When the plaintiffs filed their fourth amended complaint, however, they included not only the underwear claim but also Mulvania's earlier excessive force claim. The Sheriff moved to strike those allegations because they exceeded the court's order granting leave to amend the complaint. On March 31, 2016, the district court granted the motion to strike, but also proceeded to address the merits of the claim to avoid deciding the case on a "procedural technicality."

         C. Summary Judgment on Excessive Force Claim

         Mulvania claims the Rock Island County Jail has a widespread custom or practice of using excessive force to require detainees to change into jail-issued uniforms. She acknowledges that the jail's official policy authorizes a use-of-force continuum to ensure compliance with the uniform policy. She claims that in practice, however, excessive force is the norm. The district court concluded that ...

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