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Court Denies Police Immunity in Strip-Search Case

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Strip-searches usually get more attention when they are particularly vile. Strip-search a four-year-old, and it makes all the papers. The courts, too, will do their part and publish a case like Doe v. Woodward.

A case like Campbell v. Mack, not so much. A police officer rectally examined a man without probable cause, and the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said it was not for "full-text publication.".

Not Published

Generally, courts will publish opinions that establish a new rule of law, discuss an issue of continuing public interest, or qualify for publication under other standards. In the Sixth Circuit, there has been a presumption in favor of publication.

That apparently did not apply in a case involving Kevin Campbell and Officer Daniel Mack. According to the court record, Mack stopped Campbell as he drove by in his wife's minivan. Campbell did not have a driver's license, so the officer handcuffed him and took him to the local police station for interrogation. Officers accused Campbell of possessing illegal drugs, but he repeatedly objected. They searched his car, and then searched him -- three times. The last time, Mack strip-searched Campbell and probed his testicles and anus. The officers found no drugs or contraband.

In a civil rights suit, Campbell sued Mack for searching him in retaliation for his objections. In a summary judgment motion, the officer claimed he had a qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit rejected the argument.

No Probable Cause

The appeals court said Mack had no probable cause or reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop, and that a jury could find that he retaliated against Campbell. Reporting on the decision, the Slate said it was "a rare victory for police accountability."

Mark Joseph Stern, writing for Slate, praised the Sixth Circuit for the ruling. But he called qualified immunity "a plague on the criminal justice system," a wondered why the court did not publish its opinion. Those are words that are sometimes lost on the courts, and sometimes in unpublished opinions.

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