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Foote v. Spiegel (2001)

15 February 2001 Published in Resolved Cases

Unlawful Search, Police Practices - Kristin Foote has a mild form of cerebral palsy and a slight speech impediment. On Mother’s Day, 1994 while driving to a picnic with her 4-year-old daughter, Foote was stopped by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper on pretextual grounds. Based upon Foote’s speech pattern and a green tint on her tongue, the trooper concluded she was driving under the influence of drugs. She was detained, arrested, and later strip-searched.

On a motion for summary judgment, U. S. District Judge David Winder held that the initial stop was reasonable under the circumstances but that the detention and strip-search were unconstitutional. The 10th Circuit affirmed Judge Winder’s ruling on the strip-search, but reversed his holding on the detention. Foote also sought damages for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The case, with cooperating attorneys Andy McCullough and John Pace from the Disability Law Center, was reassigned to Judge Tena Campbell, and our February jury trial resulted in a no cause verdict on the claims against the Highway Patrol trooper for illegal stop and detention, and in an award of only $1 nominal damages for the illegal strip-search ordered by another trooper and carried out by Davis County. We appealed the jury’s no cause verdicts on the stop and detention, as well as the court’s finding for qualified immunity for the Highway Patrol trooper and the nominal damages for the strip-search. On February 16, 2001, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied our appeal. Nevertheless, as a result of our legal actions, both Davis County and the Utah Highway Patrol have rewritten their policies and procedures, which now prohibit strip-searches of everyone arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of drugs.