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Ingram v. Cole County

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 17, 2017

Fineola Ingram; Justin Simmons; Brian Boykin Plaintiffs - Appellants
Cole County; Sheriff Greg White; John Wheeler Defendants-Appellees

          Submitted: September 22, 2016

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Jefferson City

          Before RILEY, Chief Judge, MURPHY and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

          SMITH, Circuit Judge.

         The laundry policy at the Cole County Detention Center leaves pretrial detainees naked, with only a bed sheet and a blanket for cover, every four nights for women and every two-to-three nights for men. During this time, guards and cellmates may see the detainees naked. Because this plausibly amounts to unconstitutional punishment, we reverse the district court's dismissal of the plaintiffs' complaint.

         I. Background

         The plaintiffs were detainees at the Cole County Detention Center ("Jail"). Fineola Ingram was detained for 85 days beginning in November 2013. Justin Simmons was detained from April-September 2013 and again from April-July 2015. Brian Boykin was detained from March 2015 through at least July 2015, when this suit was filed.[1]

         Jail policy prohibits detainees from wearing their own clothes. Instead, the jail gives each detainee one set of clothes: underwear, undershirt, pants, outershirt, socks, and shoes. Female detainees also get a bra. Female detainees' clothes are washed every four days; male detainees' clothes are washed every two-to-three days. While this set of clothes is being washed, detainees are not provided substitute garments. They are, however, given a bed sheet and a blanket. Jail staff usually does the laundry at night and returns the clothes the following morning. This takes about seven hours. The cells have windows that, per jail policy, may not be covered. So during this time, jail guards and cellmates may see the detainees unclothed if not concealed by their bedding. Sometimes male guards return clothes to female detainees and female guards return clothes to male detainees.

         The plaintiffs sued in July 2015 as two putative classes: current detainees and former ones. They alleged that the laundry policy violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and corresponding provisions of the Missouri Constitution. They sought a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against Cole County, Sheriff Greg White, and Chief Deputy John Wheeler, and they sought damages against White and Wheeler. The district court denied the request for a restraining order and set the preliminary injunction for a hearing. The parties held depositions, and the defendants produced limited documents. The defendants moved to dismiss in late July 2015.

         The court ultimately cancelled the injunction hearing and granted the dismissal motion. It held that the plaintiffs alleged "no more than minimal deprivation." Because the laundry was being done at night, the court observed, "[d]etainees are sleeping in the nude, not going about their activities during the waking part of the day in the nude. Furthermore, detainees are issued a sheet and a blanket . . . and may cover themselves with sheet and blanket if they wish." The court also noted that the plaintiffs have no general right not to be seen by guards of the opposite sex. It therefore concluded that "[t]he laundry policy at issue here creates no combination of factors that establish a constitutional violation." The court also identified cleanliness and hygiene as a legitimate purpose for the laundry policy. And even if the policy had no valid penological purpose, the court noted, that alone would not make it unconstitutional-the focus is on the totality of the circumstances. The court then granted qualified immunity to the individual defendants because the plaintiffs had not alleged an underlying constitutional violation.

         The plaintiffs moved to set aside the judgment and for leave to file an amended complaint. The court denied that motion because the plaintiffs' proposed amended complaint did not add any allegations based on new evidence-that is, evidence unavailable before the court ruled on the motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs now appeal the dismissal and the denial of their motion to set aside the judgment. Because we reverse the district court's dismissal, we do not review its refusal to set aside the judgment in favor of amendment.

         II. Discussion

         We review the dismissal de novo. Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 591 (8th Cir. 2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs must allege sufficient facts to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). They must show more than a sheer possibility of ultimate success, but they need not establish a probability of it. Id. A complaint therefore may proceed even if a savvy judge thinks ultimate success is unlikely. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007).

         In evaluating the constitutionality of pretrial-detention conditions, "the proper inquiry is whether those conditions amount to punishment of the detainee." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). The Due Process Clause prohibits any punishment before someone is adjudicated guilty. Id. We must first ask whether a given imposition is of "a de minimis level . . . with which the Constitution is not concerned." Id. at 539 n.21 (quoting Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 674 (1977)). Then, if the imposition is of constitutional ...

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