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Media Alerts - Arnzen v. Director Charles Palmer - 8th Circuit
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May 15, 2013
  Arnzen v. Director Charles Palmer - 8th Circuit
Headline Eighth Circuit panel affirms district court preliminary injunction against the placement of video cameras in traditional style bathrooms at the Iowa Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders

Area of Law Fourth Amendment

Issue(s) Presented Whether the district court properly granted a preliminary injunction ordering the Iowa CCUSO to point video cameras in traditional rest rooms only at the ceilings or to place caps over the lenses.

Brief Summary The Plaintiffs were patients at the Iowa CCUSO. The CCUSO installed video cameras in the facility's rest rooms, some of which were "dormitory style" and some of which were "traditional" single-user style. The recorded images in the traditional rest rooms were not regularly monitored and were "masked," so that "most of the subjects' bodies are covered with a black box." However, senior administrators had the ability to "unmask the images if necessary for an investigation."

The District Court refused to bar cameras in the "dormitory style" restrooms. But the Court granted a preliminary injunction as to the placement of cameras in the "traditional" single-user style restrooms.

A panel of the Eighth Circuit affirmed. The Court ruled that, "nvoluntarily civilly committed persons retain the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches that is analogous to the right retained by pretrial detainees." Because there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in a single-person bathroom when used for ordinary purposes, cameras constitute a search. That search then must be "reasonable," taking into account "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." The Court concluded that unmonitored cameras do not immediately alert administrators to safety issues or directly prevent dangerous acts. Other measures could be effective for safety purposes and less-intrusive. Moreover, there was evidence that cameras in the traditional rest rooms could be counter-productive to treatment of patients, in that a number of the patients were victims of sexual abuse and thus "uniquely sensitive" to the camera placement.

The full text of the opinion may be found at

Panel Circuit Judges Bye, Arnold, and Benton

Argument Date April 8, 2013

Date of Issued Opinion April 22, 2013

Docket Number 12-3634

Decided Affirmed

Counsel Gretchen Witte Kraemer, for Appellants Director Charles Palmer, et al; Pamela A. Wingert, for Appellees Arnzen, et al

Author Circuit Judge Arnold

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor Bradley G. Clary, Clinical Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School

    Posted By: Bradley Clary @ 05/15/2013 12:36 PM     8th Circuit  

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