PARIS – A magistrate has recommended judgment against a Paris woman on five counts charging the Oxford County Jail with illegal strip-searches, but said the case may proceed on one complaint.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret J. Kravchuk recommended a summary judgment against Ruth Ann Brazier on three counts against former Sheriff Lloyd Herrick and the county, and dismissal of two counts against an unnamed corrections officer. However, Kravchuk said that Brazier’s case could proceed against the county on a municipal liability claim.

In a complaint filed in April 2007 in U.S. District Court, Brazier said she was strip-searched three times by the same corrections officer after being arrested in April and May of 2006 on misdemeanor motor vehicle charges. One of the searches allegedly occurred after Brazier had been allowed bail by a district court judge.

Maine state law holds that an inmate charged with a misdemeanor crime must not be strip-searched unless there is reasonable suspicion that he or she is hiding weapons, drugs, or contraband. Brazier argues that the corrections officer said the searches were “standard procedure” at the jail.

Brazier states that her Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the searches. She charges Oxford County with two claims of municipal liability, one for an alleged denial of bail and one for the alleged lapse in the strip-search policy. She also charges former Sheriff Lloyd Herrick and the corrections officer, known as “Jane Doe,” with liability and seeks punitive damages against both.

The defendants, all represented by the same two attorneys, denied the accusations in an answer filed in August 2007.

Kravchuk states that there is no indication that the searches were part of a policy decision by Herrick or Capt. Ernest Martin, the jail administrator. She also states that there is no evidence of other inmates being subjected to similar searches or other officers conducting searches in similar circumstances during 2006.

Kravchuk states that misconduct by a particular officer does not point to an underlying custom unless “it is shown that the conduct is participated in by multiple officers or by the same officer on multiple occasions.” However, she also states that Brazier’s accusations may indicate a “customary practice that has somehow endured despite the existence of a contrary written policy.”

Kravchuk stated that the jail has “an appropriate strip-search policy” and that Brazier admitted that the corrections officers are trained at the start of their employment on such procedures.

Brazier later attempted to change the defendant “Jane Doe” to Sgt. Arlene Kerr, saying she did not recall the name of the corrections officer who conducted the search until December 2007. Kravchuk recommends a denial of the substitution and dismissal of the complaints against “Jane Doe,” since Brazier said in October 2007 that she knew Kerr had conducted the searches. Kravchuk states that Brazier may file another suit against Kerr or the defense attorneys in the case may accept service on Kerr’s behalf.

According to Sun Journal archives, Brazier served 10 days in the jail in May 2006 on a charge of furnishing a place for minors to consume alcohol. At the time, Brazier was running for a seat as a Paris selectman on a platform of providing more recreational areas in the town.


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