The Ninth Circuit appointed Horvitz & Levy to file pro bono amicus briefing in support of a pro se appellant. The Ninth Circuit reversed on both of the grounds that Horvitz & Levy briefed and argued.
Lecia Shorter was held as a pretrial detainee in a women’s jail run by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff’s deputies subjected Shorter to a strip-search policy that involved chaining Shorter without clothing to the door of her cell while deputies checked her clothing and body cavities for contraband. On three occasions, deputies left Shorter chained to her cell door without clothing for extended periods of time after they decided she was not complying with the search process. In addition, Shorter received only three showers throughout 32 days in custody.
Shorter sued, but the jury found in defendants’ favor. The Ninth Circuit reversed for a new trial. In the second trial, the jury again found in defendants’ favor, and the district court largely denied Shorter’s posttrial motions. Shorter appealed a second time.
The Ninth Circuit appointed Horvitz & Levy as pro bono amicus counsel to independently brief and argue the merits of Shorter’s appeal. Horvitz & Levy argued that Shorter is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on her excessive search claim and her claim based on denial of showers.
The Ninth Circuit agreed with both arguments Horvitz & Levy raised, reversing in part and remanding for further proceedings on the amount of Shorter’s damages. On the excessive search claim, the court held that defendants violated Shorter’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights because they provided no penological justification for leaving inmates unclothed and chained for any period of time after their clothes had already been searched. And, the court noted, defendants had less invasive ways to complete the searches that they failed to employ. On the inadequate sanitation claim, the court held that defendants violated Shorter’s Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from pretrial conditions that amount to punishment. Although defendants’ formal policy required that inmates be offered showers regularly, the undisputed evidence showed that defendants failed to follow that policy.