ACLU of Nebraska Announces Settlement with Police Over Intrusive Strip-Search of Teen

Affiliate: ACLU of Nebraska
June 11, 2003 12:00 am

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ACLU of Nebraska
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LINCOLN, NE- The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska today announced the settlement of a lawsuit filed against the city of Kearney and its police department over the strip-search of a teen-age girl.

“”We are very satisfied with this settlement and we hope this sends a message to other law enforcement agencies statewide,”” said Amy Miller, Legal Director of the ACLU of Nebraska. “”We are hopeful that Kearney and other communities are providing education to their officers to ensure that no other Nebraskans are subjected to this intensely humiliating sort of search.””

Kearney is a town of 28,000 located in central Nebraska.

According to the ACLU’s lawsuit, on December 28, 2000 officers from the Kearney Police Department executed a search warrant at the residence of 16-year-old Holly Rae Liner’s stepfather and siblings. Liner, who was dressed in pajamas and menstruating at the time, was subjected to a pat-down search.

Although Liner informed the officers of her condition and the reason for the bulge in her groin area, a female officer took her to the bathroom to conduct a strip-search. During the strip-search, Liner was ordered to remove her pajama bottoms and underwear and then “”squat and cough”” while the officer watched. She was further required to remove her tampon and feminine napkin in the officer’s presence. The officer then provided Liner with another tampon and watched while Liner inserted it.

Liner was the only person subjected to an intrusive body cavity search. None of the adult family members present were given anything more than a pat-down outside of their clothing.

The police then ordered Liner out of the house at night without allowing her to phone her mother or another adult, and without allowing her to gather her belongings or to put on weather-appropriate clothing and shoes.

Those actions, the ACLU charged, violated Liner’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free from illegal search and seizure, as well as her right to equal protection (because she was singled out on the basis of her gender) and her due process liberty interests. The lawsuit also included charges of illegal battery, unlawful touching, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment.

“”There was never any question that Holly was innocent-no one ever accused her of wrongdoing either during the search or afterwards,”” said Corey Stull, a local attorney who together with his wife Jeanette served as cooperating counsel for the ACLU of Nebraska in this case. “”Even though the other people in the house were legal adults, the only one subjected to a strip-search was our teen-age client. The law simply does not allow such extreme and egregious conduct by the police. No civilized society will tolerate this sort of a humiliating search of a child.””

The case, Holly Liner v. City of Kearney et al, was settled by mutual agreement and included compensation for Liner as well as payment of her attorney fees and costs associated with the lawsuit.

Jeanette and Corey Stull are attorneys with Perry, Guthery, Haase & Gessford in Lincoln. The husband-and-wife team provided their services in this case for free, while the ACLU of Nebraska underwrote the costs of the litigation.

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