CHICAGO (CN) – A detective who installed a hidden camera in the female officers’ changing room on his boss’s orders is not entitled to immunity on his co-workers’ unreasonable search claims, the Seventh Circuit ruled.
William Adkins was a detective at Jessie Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago when he installed a hidden surveillance camera in the ceiling of an office used by female officers as a changing room.
Female officers used the room, which was also in use as a supervisor’s office, because the center did not have a designated female locker room for security personnel.
The center discovered the surveillance equipment during a renovation two years later.
Adkins claims he installed the camera on the orders of his supervisor, Chief of the Police and Security Service Myron Thomas, who told him the camera was needed to identify supervisors who were sleeping in the office while on duty.
Adkins contacted two people to inquire about the legality of installing the camera in the office, and both told him it would be illegal. But Thomas told him “not to worry about that.”
Images from the camera were sent to Thomas’ computer.
Renee Gustafson, a police lieutenant supervisor, sued Thomas, Adkins, and the United States for performing an unconstitutional search, and invading her privacy. The U.S. was dismissed as a defendant when the government accepted her Compensation Act claim.
A federal judge denied Adkins’ motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed Friday.
U.S. Circuit Judge Joel Flaum rejected Adkins’ claim that “that his actions did not violate a clearly established constitutional right of which a reasonable law enforcement officer in his position would have known.”
Adkins’ asserted that the Supreme Court’s 1987 decision in O’Connor v. Ortega was delivered by a four-judge plurality, and was therefore not a judgment that clearly established the law of the land.
“Both the Supreme Court and this Court have long held that a controlling holding may be gleaned from a plurality opinion,” Flaum said, writing for the three-judge panel.
He continued, “More to the point, we have already held that the O’Connor plurality opinion controls because Justice Scalia [in his dissent] did not articulate a different standard than the plurality’s reasonableness test.”
Thus, he said, the right of employees to be free from unreasonable employer search was clearly established by the time Adkins installed the hidden cameras in 2007.
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