Arizona’s male pretrial detainees in Maricopa County have a right to pursue civil rights claims that female guards are allowed to watch their shower and toilet use from as little as four feet away, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
The lawsuit against Maricopa County and the controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio was ordered reinstated by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Arizona prison inmate Charles Byrd was a former pretrial detainee and originally brought the lawsuit without a lawyer but it was dismissed. That claim involved strip searches.
His latest claim is that the policy of having female guards regularly view his bathroom and shower use from four to five feet away violates his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and causes severe emotional harm due to his history of abuse.
The trial judge dismissed the suit without even hearing the county’s defense.
The appeals panel said that if Byrd’s allegations are true there are enough facts to pursue a claim of unconstitutional search and seizure violations.
“Assuming that the female guards could view male pretrial detainees while showering and using the toilet frequently and up close, the scope and manner of the intrusions were far broader than those our court previously has approved,” wrote Judge John Owens.
The prison defended the policy as justified to ensure equal employment opportunities for female guards and for security for violent prisoners.
But the appeals panel said there is no evidence yet that detainees were violent or that the policy was put in place not for security but “merely to humiliate pretrial detainees,” Owens said.
The case was sent back to the trial judge with orders to appoint an attorney to represent Byrd.
Case: Byrd v. Maricopa County, No. 15-16282