Susan Chana Lask
Zulima V. Farber Robert J. Del Tufo Peter Harvey
For the first time in any prison strip search case, 5 former Attorneys General filed an Amici Brief supporting the Class Action Florence v. County of Burlington, et al. in the Third Circuit, Case Nos. 09-3603 and 09-3661. On April 15, 2010, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case in Philadelphia.
Attorney Susan Chana Lask is class counsel in Florence for tens of thousands of persons complaining that since 2003 they were unconstitutionally strip searched at Burlington County Jail and Essex County Correctional Facility for minor offenses such as traffic tickets, failure to pay a fine and child support arrears. History was made three times in Florence, NJ District Court Case Number 05-3619. In 2008, District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez certified the case as the first New Jersey strip search Class Action certified by the Court over objection of the Defendant Counties. Next, in 2009, the District Court granted Ms. Lask’s summary judgment by holding blanket strip searching at jail intake violates constitutional rights to privacy. Then in 2010 five Attorneys General filed a Brief supporting Judge Rodriguez’ decision finding that examining people’s nude bodies followed by a supervised shower is a “humiliating and degrading” experience for those charged with minor offenses.
“It is an honor and a dream to be in the company of such brilliant persons as 5 former Attorneys General and one former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice supporting my case.”, says Class Action attorney Susan Chana Lask.
The five former New Jersey Attorneys General are Robert J. Del Tufo, Deborah T. Poritz, John J. Farmer Jr., Peter C. Harvey and Zulima V. Farber. Deborah T. Poritz was also Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1996 to 2006. The AGs’ Brief states the decision “was not only consistent with case law, but was also consistent with the Attorney General of New Jersey’s Strip Search Requirements”. Attorney Susan Chana Lask’s Circuit Brief states that the people in her class are “the mother who forgot to pay her traffic ticket, the father who could not pay his child support or the daughter who forgot her license and was brought in for not having it in her possession during a traffic stop. “These non-criminal persons are all strip searched for something close to failing to pay their phone bill, and left scarred for life”, says Lask.
In 2005, Ms. Lask filed the case for Albert Florence, now the Class Representative, after he was arrested for a non-criminal warrant of failing to pay a fine. He was strip searched at Burlington County Jail then seven days later transported to Essex County Correctional Facility. There he was again ordered to strip naked in a group of men while guards and inmates viewed them squat and cough naked. Mr. Florence was released when a Court found the warrant was a mistake.