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Baptiste v. Foster

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

May 25, 2017

Stephen Baptiste
v.
Joseph Foster, New Hampshire Attorney General, Opinion No. 2017 DNH 098

          Stephen C. Baptiste, pro se.

          Francis Charles Fredericks, Esq.

          ORDER

          JOSEPH DICLERICO, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Stephen C. Baptiste, who is an inmate at the New Hampshire State Prison for men and is proceeding pro se, brought suit against the New Hampshire Attorney General and officials and employees of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that arose from a group strip search at the prison. As allowed on preliminary review, Baptiste brings a claim for damages against Officers John Doe #2, Jardine, Fouts, Orlando, Foncier, alleging that the strip search violated his Fourth Amendment right to be protected from unreasonable searches. The defendants move to dismiss the claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Baptiste did not file a response to the motion.

         Standard of Review

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must determine whether the plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to support a plausible claim. In re Curran, ___ F.3d ___, 2017 WL 1405211, at *3 (1st Cir. Apr. 20, 2017). The court accepts the properly pleaded facts as true and takes inferences from the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. O'Shea v. UPS Retirement Plan, 837 F.3d 67, 77 (1st Cir. 2016). Conclusory allegations and mere statements of the elements of a cause of action are not sufficient to avoid dismissal. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         Background

         The prison hosts a holiday event for inmates and their families in December each year. The event is held in the prison gymnasium with each prison unit assigned a day for the party. Inmates apply to attend the party and must meet certain criteria to be allowed to attend.

         Baptiste's unit was scheduled to attend the holiday event on December 18, 2014. The event began at 6:30 p.m. and lasted until 8:45 p.m. When the visitors were escorted out of the gym after the event, the inmates remained.

         The corrections officers announced that there would be a strip search of the inmates before they were allowed to leave the gym. The inmates were called to tables in groups of eight for corrections officers to conduct the strip searches, including visual body cavity searches. The strip searches were done in the open in the gym, without privacy screens, and in the view of a female corrections officer, Kelly Jardine, who was standing on the stairs in the gym. There was also a video surveillance camera operating during the searches.

         In early January of 2015, Baptiste complained to Major Fouts about the strip search and about a female officer being present. Major Fouts denied that a female officer had been present. On January 22, Baptiste went to mental health sick call to report the circumstances of the strip search and to seek treatment for the trauma he experienced during the search. Baptiste met with Jean Carrol to discuss the strip search and to provide a statement.

         Baptiste wrote to the New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster about the strip search. Foster replied that he had turned the investigation over to Colon Forbes in the department of professional standards. On January 29, 2015, Baptiste sent a grievance form to Warden Gerry about the strip search, which was denied as untimely. In February of 2015, Baptiste sent a grievance to Commissioner William Wrenn who responded that no female corrections officer was present during the strip search and that the strip search procedure would be reviewed and changed for the next year.

         Discussion

         The defendants move to dismiss Baptiste's claim that the strip search violated his Fourth Amendment rights. They argue both that Baptiste has not alleged facts to show a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and that they are protected by ...


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