Monday, January 6, 2014

Anal Searches: Judge denies motions in Civil Rights case

A federal judge on Thursday denied several motions by the City of Milwaukee filed as part of its defense of a civil rights lawsuit brought by victims of illegal strip searches and body caviity exams.
U.S. District Lynn Adelman made the rulings in one of several pending cases brought by some 20 people who claim they were subjected to the searches by Milwaukee police officers.

In one case involving nine plaintiffs, the city had asked to separate the claims, on the grounds that each search is distinct and it is difficult to determine whether there are common legal issues. The city also asked that the plaintiffs be ordered to provide a more particularized claim.

In separate orders Thursday, Adelman denied both motions. He found the plaintiffs' complaint "well organized and separated into counts that clearly identify the alleged wrongdoing of each defendant and the relief sought," and not so vague or ambiguous as to require a more defined version. Any more detail the city may require can be learned during discovery, Adelman said.

Regarding severing the various plaintiffs' claims, Adelman found the nine plaintiffs, who were subjected to 29 searches over a two year period, still had common-enough claims to be part of one suit. The "common theme underlying all of the claims is that the searches were performed and assisted by members of the Fifth District’s so-called 'power shift,' which consisted of a small group of officers assigned to target violent crime and drug crimes during the 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift."

Secondly, Adelman identified a question of law common to all the claims: "When may a police officer, consistently with the Fourth Amendment, perform a search of a person’s genitals, anus, buttocks or pubic area  without a warrant?"

To the city's argument that defending all the claims in one case would be too complex and burdensome, Adelman concluded, " I am sure that it will be, but it will be less complex and burdensome than litigating all of those claims in nine or more separate lawsuits"

Lastly, Adelman on Thursday also granted four of the nine plaintiffs' request to continue being identified in public court records only by their initials (their full names will be disclosed to the court and the defendants), because they contend they were subjected to sexual assault.
"Although it is true that the public has a right to know who is using their courts," Adelman wrote, "it is doubtful that the public’s understanding of this case will be compromised if four of the nine plaintiffs are permitted
to withhold their full names."

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