Mabry v. Lee Cnty., No. 16-60231

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtEDITH BROWN CLEMENT, Circuit Judge
Citation849 F.3d 232
Parties Nicole MABRY, as Mother and Next Friend of T.M., a Minor, Plaintiff–Appellant v. LEE COUNTY, Defendant–Appellee
Decision Date21 February 2017
Docket NumberNo. 16-60231

849 F.3d 232

Nicole MABRY, as Mother and Next Friend of T.M., a Minor, Plaintiff–Appellant
v.
LEE COUNTY, Defendant–Appellee

No. 16-60231

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

FILED February 21, 2017


Victor Israel Fleitas, Tupelo, MS, for Plaintiff–Appellant.

William C. Murphree, Esq., Mitchell, McNutt & Sams, Gary Lee Carnathan, I, Esq., Attorney, Carnathan & McAuley, Tupelo, MS, for Defendant–Appellee.

Jessica R. Feierman, Marsha L. Levick, Chief Counsel, Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia, PA, for Amicus Curiae Juvenile Law Center.

Before WIENER, CLEMENT, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.

EDITH BROWN CLEMENT, Circuit Judge:

T.M., a middle school student, was arrested after a fight on school property and taken to a juvenile detention center. As part of standard intake procedures at the center, she was subjected to a strip and cavity search. She was released from the center that same evening. All charges were eventually dropped. Nicole Mabry ("Mabry"), T.M.'s mother, brought suit against Lee County ("County") and others on T.M.'s behalf, alleging among other things that the strip and cavity search violated T.M.'s Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted the County's motion for partial summary judgment on the Fourth Amendment issue. Mabry timely appealed. We AFFIRM.

I

The facts essential to this appeal are not in dispute. T.M. was a twelve-year old student at Tupelo Middle School. She was in a physical altercation with a fellow student on school property. Pursuant to the school's zero-tolerance policy, the school principal consulted with the Tupelo police officer assigned to be the School Resource Officer ("SRO"). Following that conversation, the SRO determined there was probable cause to arrest T.M. on charges of assault, disorderly conduct, and disruption of a school session. He called the Lee County Youth Court's judicial designee and was given authorization, based on the designee's determination of probable cause, to transport T.M. to the Lee County Juvenile Detention Center ("Center"). He then removed T.M. from school property, handcuffed her, and patted her down. No weapons or contraband were found.

Center intake procedures dictated that all juveniles processed into the Center were to be searched for contraband using a metal detecting wand and a pat down. In addition, procedures required that juveniles charged with a violent, theft, or drug offense who were to be placed into the Center's general population be subjected to a visual strip and cavity search. All

849 F.3d 234

juveniles brought to the Center were processed for placement in the general population unless the Youth Court specifically informed the Center that the juvenile was to be held as a "non-detainee."

Pursuant to these policies, a female corrections officer searched T.M. when she arrived at the Center. The officer first used the metal detecting wand and patted T.M. down, finding no contraband. At that point, the officer had no reason to suspect T.M. was concealing any contraband in or on her person. Because T.M. was charged with a violent offense, however, Center policy required that the officer strip and cavity search T.M. In a private setting, T.M. was made to strip naked, bend over, spread her buttocks, display the anal cavity, and cough.1 At no point did the officer touch T.M. during the search. No contraband was found. Following the search, T.M. showered, dressed, moved to a holding cell for approximately twenty minutes, and then entered the general population. She was released from the Center later that evening. No charges against T.M. were pursued.

Mabry sued on T.M.'s behalf. The County filed two separate motions for partial summary judgment. The district court granted both motions and—because neither motion was for complete summary judgment—ordered Mabry to show cause as to whether any remaining claims existed against the County. Mabry responded that no remaining claims existed, and the district court entered final judgment.

Mabry timely appealed. Her appeal is limited to a single issue: whether the district court erred in determining that Mabry failed to create a genuine issue of material fact that the Center's search of T.M. violated T.M.'s Fourth Amendment rights. We AFFIRM.

II

We review "the district court's ruling on summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as the district court in the first instance." Davis v. Fort Bend Cty. , 765 F.3d 480, 484 (5th Cir. 2014). Summary judgment is appropriate only "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

III

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads in relevant part, "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." Because "[t]he Fourth Amendment prohibits only unreasonable searches," Grady v. North Carolina , ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 1368, 1371, 191 L.Ed.2d 459 (2015), it has been left to courts to draw the line between reason and unreason. There are many different kinds of searches, varying in relative intrusiveness and distinguishable by context. Unsurprisingly, search and seizure jurisprudence has been patchwork, composed of a number of different tests, to be applied to different kinds of searches and in different settings.

The question presented to us is whether Mabry has shown that the County's visual strip and cavity search of T.M., who was detained for simple assault pursuant to a probable cause determination by a judicial designee, violated the Fourth Amendment.

849 F.3d 235

To answer, it is necessary to probe the Supreme Court's Fourth Amendment precedents to determine whether any bind us. Although there are myriad Supreme Court cases that are at least tangentially related to the issues raised here, three are especially pertinent. None is on all-fours with the facts here. We give a brief summary of each nonetheless, to properly situate our substantive analysis below in the context of governing Supreme Court case law.

A. Bell v. Wolfish

Bell v. Wolfish , 441 U.S. 520, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), "is the starting point for understanding" how to evaluate the reasonableness of a search at a correctional facility. Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders of Cty. of Burlington , 566 U.S. 318, 132 S.Ct. 1510, 1516, 182 L.Ed.2d 566 (2012). In Bell , a group of adult pretrial detainees brought a class action suit, challenging, among other things, a New York correctional facility's practice of strip and cavity searching all inmates "after every contact visit with a person from outside the institution." 441 U.S. at 558, 99 S.Ct. 1861. The searches were strictly visual; inmates were not touched. Id. at 558 n.39, 99 S.Ct. 1861. The Court announced a holistic balancing test to be applied when determining a search's reasonableness:

The test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application. In each case it requires a balancing of the need for the particular search against the invasion of personal rights that the search entails. Courts must consider 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 conducted.

Id. at 559, 99 S.Ct. 1861. Applying this test to the searches at issue in Bell , the Court "[b]alance[d] the significant and legitimate security interests of the institution against the privacy interests of the inmates," and concluded that the balance weighed in favor of the reasonableness of the searches. Id. at 560, 99 S.Ct. 1861.

B. Safford v. Redding

The inmates in Bell were adults. Thirty years later, the Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of strip searches of minor students by school officials on school property. See Safford Unified Sch. Dist. No. 1 v. Redding , 557 U.S. 364, 129 S.Ct. 2633, 174 L.Ed.2d 354 (2009). In Safford , the principal of a middle school oversaw the search of a student who was required to "pull her bra out and to the side and shake it, and to pull out the elastic on her underpants, thus exposing her breasts and pelvic area to some degree." Id. at 369, 129 S.Ct. 2633. The Court, relying heavily on prior precedent in New Jersey v. T.L.O. , 469 U.S. 325, 105 S.Ct. 733, 83 L.Ed.2d 720 (1985), held that, when assessing the constitutionality of "searches by school officials[,] a ‘careful...

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    ...U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ; Jones v. United States , 936 F.3d 318, 321 (5th Cir. 2019) ; Mabry v. Lee Cty. , 849 F.3d 232, 234 (5th Cir. 2017) ; Davis v. Fort Bend Cty. , 765 F.3d 480, 484 (5th Cir. 2014), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S. Ct. 2804, 192 L.Ed.2d......
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    ...U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ; Jones v. United States , 936 F.3d 318, 321 (5th Cir. 2019) ; Mabry v. Lee Cty. , 849 F.3d 232, 234 (5th Cir. 2017) ; Davis v. Fort Bend Cty. , 765 F.3d 480, 484 (5th Cir. 2014), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S. Ct. 2804, 192 L.Ed.2d......
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    ...a twelve-year-old female who was arrested for fighting at school, handcuffed, and taken to a juvenile facility. See Mabry v. Lee County , 849 F.3d 232 (5th Cir. 2017). The search preceded the girl’s entry into general population at the facility and was conducted as a matter of standard poli......
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    ...demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Mabry v. Lee Cty., 849 F.3d 232, 234 (5th Cir. 2017); Davis v. Fort Bend Cty., 765 F.3d 480, 484 (5th Cir. 2014), cert. denied, 135 S. Ct. 2804 (2015); Tech. Automation Servs. Co......
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11 cases
  • Bitco Gen. Ins. Corp. v. Acadia Ins. Co., CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:18-CV-526
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • December 16, 2019
    ...U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ; Jones v. United States , 936 F.3d 318, 321 (5th Cir. 2019) ; Mabry v. Lee Cty. , 849 F.3d 232, 234 (5th Cir. 2017) ; Davis v. Fort Bend Cty. , 765 F.3d 480, 484 (5th Cir. 2014), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S. Ct. 2804, 192 L.Ed.2d......
  • Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Steel Painters LLC, CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:18-CV-303
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • January 14, 2020
    ...U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ; Jones v. United States , 936 F.3d 318, 321 (5th Cir. 2019) ; Mabry v. Lee Cty. , 849 F.3d 232, 234 (5th Cir. 2017) ; Davis v. Fort Bend Cty. , 765 F.3d 480, 484 (5th Cir. 2014), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S. Ct. 2804, 192 L.Ed.2d......
  • E.W. v. Dolgos, No. 16-1608
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    • February 12, 2018
    ...a twelve-year-old female who was arrested for fighting at school, handcuffed, and taken to a juvenile facility. See Mabry v. Lee County , 849 F.3d 232 (5th Cir. 2017). The search preceded the girl’s entry into general population at the facility and was conducted as a matter of standard poli......
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