Samuels v. Strange
An isolated instance in which a corrections officer allegedly gropes an inmate during a frisk may not be sufficiently serious to qualify as cruel and unusual punishment, under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On Jan. 23, 2008, Officer Hart allegedly asked the plaintiff inmate, Ralston Samuels, about the contents of his pocket, and Samuels handed Hart the pieces of bread in his pocket. Allegedly, Officer Hart conducted a search of Samuels and, in the process, pulled his pants down below his buttocks and grabbed his genitals. Samuels went into punitive segregation for 21 days after he complained. Samuels sued Hart and other workers, alleging that they violated his rights under the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiff alleged that contemporary standards of decency bar sexual assaults of prison inmates. The defendants moved for summary judgment. The 11th Amendment barred the plaintiff's claims against the defendants in their official capacities, and the court granted the defense motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's claims against the defendants in their official capacities. In Young v. Brock, a 2012 decision, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado held that allegations of sexual touching by a guard during a frisk did not violate the Eighth Amendment. In Pantusco v. Sorrell, a 2011 decision, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey held that allegations of groping during a frisk did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Even if the plaintiff inmate proves that Officer Hart groped the plaintiff, the court was not persuaded that one isolated instance of groping during a frisk violates the Eighth Amendment. The court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment count.