Three more women have filed lawsuits alleging they were illegally strip-searched in the Davis County Jail.
Filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, the new suits bring to 12 the number of cases against the county and associated law enforcement personnel.Half those suits, including the three new ones, were filed by Ogden attorney Alyson D. Snider, who says there probably are a lot more potential plaintiffs.
"I suspect one reason more women haven't come forward is because of the embarrassment," Snider said. "Four of my clients were so humiliated and embarrassed by the experience that they couldn't even talk about it."
All of the suits say the county strip-search policy violated the plantiffs' constitutional rights because it permitted strip searches without reasonable suspicion and was applied to women who would not be placed with the general jail population.
One of the newest plaintiffs, J.J. Johnson, was arrested in Layton on July 7, 1995, on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A male passenger in her car voluntarily surrendered a small bag of marijuana to Davis County Deputy Brian Law, but he was not taken into custody.
The suit said Johnson was wearing tight stretch pants, a sports bra and a scooped-arm tank top, making it "obvious that she had nothing hidden in her clothing or on her person." Also, she did not appear intoxicated and was not given a sobriety test.
However, at the jail, she was ordered to strip and was required to submit to a complete body search.
"The strip search of J.J. Johnson was illegal and outrageous," the suit said. "The female officer who conducted the strip search lacked reasonable suspicion to believe that Ms. Johnson was concealing any drugs or weapons . . . ."
J.A. Spell was arrested in Clinton on April 8, 1995, also for driving under the influence. At the Clinton police station, she was allowed to use the restroom, but only while still handcuffed. When she was unable to pull up her pants, a male police officer entered the bathroom and removed the cuffs, the suit said.
"This invasion of her privacy completely humiliated the plaintiff," the suit said.
At the county jail, she was ordered to strip and was searched by a female officer. Afterward, she posted bail and was released without ever entering the general population of the jail, the suit said.
"The officer who arrested Ms. Spell patted her down at the scene of her arrest and had seen her basically naked (at the police station restroom)," the suit said. "There was no reason for the (jailhouse) strip search to be done."
G.B. Hatch was arrested at Hill Air Force Base on Aug. 1, 1995, on a warrant for a minor charge, the suit said. Saying she was dressed in a "clingy, lightweight dress with no sleeves, high heels and pantyhose," the suit said it was obvious she had no contraband hidden on her person.
At the Davis County Jail, she was told to strip. "Ms. Hatch was visibly shaken and upset, crying uncontrollably," the suit said. But after she had disrobed, she was further required to submit to a complete body inspection.
Hatch spent one hour in the general jail population before being released on $100 bail, the suit said.
All 12 of the alleged searches occurred between 1990 and 1995. Last year, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in an earlier case that Davis County's strip-search policy was constitutionally flawed because it didn't require "reasonable suspicion."
Last month, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell held the county liable for that same earlier search. She said the county should have known even before the first of the suits was filed that its policy would eventually lead to a violation of constitutional rights.
According to Snider, in the wake of the suits, the county changed its policy to require jailers to put their reasons for any strip search in writing and sign the document.
Three of the suits have been settled out of court for amounts ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. Snider is seeking $450,000 in damages for each of her six clients.