CA11: Strip club survives summary judgment on unreasonable search claim when it was raided by 36 officers including SWAT team

A strip club was subjected to a raid with 36 officers, including the SWAT team. People were manhandled during the raid. The plaintiff club stated a claim sufficient to overcome summary judgment that the raid and search was unreasonable. WBY, Inc. v. Dekalb County, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 7356 (11th Cir. Mar. 13, 2019):

Here, we affirm the denial of the County’s motion for judgment as a matter of law because the evidence at trial and the reasonable inferences that could be drawn from that evidence do not “point so overwhelmingly in favor of one party that reasonable people could not arrive at a contrary verdict.” Brown, 597 F.3d at 1173. Specifically, a jury could reasonably conclude from the evidence that the County violated Follies’s right to be free from unreasonable administrative search and seizure.

The evidence at trial showed that the inspection of Follies involved a total of thirty-six officials, including twelve members of the SWAT unit’s Strike Force, every detective in both the vice and narcotics units, a permits-unit officer, ordinary uniformed officers, code-compliance officials, and two state-revenue agents. The Strike Force was armed and wearing army fatigues, and some officers wore masks. The officers yelled at patrons and employees using unprovoked profanity, shoved an employee who was complying with officer commands, and removed the part-owner from the club in a “pain hold” and refused to permit him to use the restroom despite his medical condition. Patrons were ordered to sit and be quiet and were not permitted to leave for at least twenty minutes. All fifty-five of Follies’s entertainers were ordered to line up and submit to individual photographs in which they were required to hold up a whiteboard displaying their legal name, stage name, and date of birth, a process that lasted two hours. An entertainer was “put to the floor” and arrested for talking on her cell phone as the entertainers were assembling. Operations at Follies were completely shut down for approximately two hours.

Based on this evidence, viewed as a whole and in the light most favorable to Follies, the jury reasonably could have concluded that the inspection of Follies was unreasonable in scope and execution.

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