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Media Alerts - J.B. v. James B. Fassnacht et al. - Third Circuit
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September 23, 2015
  J.B. v. James B. Fassnacht et al. - Third Circuit
Headline: Florence Applies to Juvenile Detainees Committed to the General Population of a Detention Center

Area of Law: Criminal Law, Juvenile Law

Issue Presented: Does Florence apply to all juveniles committed to the general population of a juvenile detention facility thus requiring all juvenile detainees to undergo a strip search?

Brief Summary: Florence applied to juveniles committed to the general population of a juvenile detention facility because the institutional security risks faced by prisons outweighed any constitutional right to privacy of juvenile detainees. The security risks to prisons were the same whether the detainee was a juvenile or an adult. The state, as de facto guardian of juvenile offenders while they were detained, had an interest in screening juvenile offenders in order to provide appropriate care for the juveniles. Furthermore, an individualized, reasonable suspicion inquiry rather than a blanket policy allowing strip searches would be unworkable. Lastly, Florence did not include an exception for juvenile detainees.

Extended Summary: This case concerns whether Florence v. Board of Chose Freeholders of County of Burlington, where the Supreme Court of the United States held that all arrestees committed to the general population of a detention center may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed, applied to juvenile offenders.

As in Florence, the Court balanced a juvenile detainee's privacy interests with the risks to their wellbeing and to institutional security. The Court observed that juvenile detainees face a substantial risk of psychological damage if forced to endure a strip search, and a juvenile maintains an enhanced right to privacy. However, after balancing juvenile detainees' privacy interests against the security interests of a prison or other detention facility, the institutional security risks outweighed any constitutional right to privacy of juvenile detainees.

Florence recognized that detainees posed a risk to security in prisons, and those risks were the same whether the detainee was a juvenile or an adult. Just like an adult detainee, a juvenile detainee could carry a communicable disease, possess signs of gang membership, and attempt to smuggle contraband into the detention facility. Juvenile detainees posed significant dangers to other detainees and juvenile detention center staff. Furthermore, the state had the responsibility to act as a juvenile's de facto guardian while he or she was detained, thus the state had a responsibility to screen juvenile detainees for signs of disease, self-mutilation, or abuse in the home. Sensitive scanning devices and narcotic scanners would not adequately protect penological interests in the security and care of juveniles. Therefore, detention facilities' security interests outweighed the privacy interests of juvenile detainees.

In addressing Plaintiff's arguments, the Court found that an individualized, reasonable suspicion inquiry rather than a blanket policy allowing strip searches would be unworkable. Detention facility administration could not practicably classify inmates by their current and prior offenses prior to the intake strip search. Moreover, the Supreme Court recognized the utility of blanket policies in prison administration. A policy that allowed prison administrators to engage in an individualized inquiry of whether or not to subject a juvenile detainee to a strip search would likely be less evenhanded and increase the risk of danger to the general population.

Furthermore, Florence did not include an exception for juvenile detainees. The Supreme Court left open the possibility of exceptions, but the Court interpreted Florence to contemplate exceptions for particular factual scenarios not yet before the court rather than for juveniles as a class. The Supreme Court used broad, sweeping language when describing who will be subjected to a strip search and what constituted a jail. The only qualification the Supreme Court included in deciding Florence was that the detainee must be admitted to the general population.
To read the full opinion, please visit http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/143905p.pdf

Panel (if known): Fuentes, Nygaard, and Roth, Circuit Judges.

Date of Argument: July 9, 2015

Date of Issued Opinion: September 15, 2015

Docket Number: No. 14-3905

Decided: Reversed District Court order denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment

Case Alert Author: Sarah Adams

Counsel: Charles R. Starnes, Esq., Brian H. Leinhauser, Esq., David J. MacMain, Esq., counsel for Appellants; Kevin C. Allen, Esq., counsel for Appellees.

Author of Opinion: Judge Fuentes

Circuit: Third Circuit

Case Alert Supervisor: Professor Mary E. Levy

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 09/23/2015 02:57 PM     3rd Circuit  

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