I see London, I see France, I see a failed attempt to appeal a Los Angeles trial court decision on X-ray machines at state prisons!
(Doesn’t really flow like the traditional underpants song, does it? Ah well.)
In any case, Tuesday was not a good day for several former visitors to the state prison at Lancaster who had sued the state for allegedly violating their state and federal Constitutional rights by subjecting them to search by so-called “backscatter” X-ray machines. The appeals court declined to revisit a lower court ruling that left a lot of loose ends, and no damage award.
The Secure 1000 machines were used from 1999 through 2001 at the prison and produced images that included “an outline of breasts, genitalia and folds of skin,” according to Tuesday’s denied appeal (.pdf), written by Second District Court of Appeal Presiding Judge Dennis Perluss. Perluss acknowledged that “darkened areas” on such images, on further search, sometimes turned out to be “feminine hygiene products, breast implants, brassiere underwire and diapers.”
Backscatter X-ray machines have already aroused controversy (and possibly also people). In 2003 they were introduced at a handful of airports across the country.
Associated Press Photo
That’s when Susan Hallowell, the
Transportation Safety Administration’s security lab director, gave the
world a demonstration (and a pretty good idea of her cup size). That’s
her at right.
In the California prison case, plaintiff Gail Marie Harrington-Wisely sued the state in 2000, and in ensuing years tried to also seek damages. In 2005, a lower court found she was not entitled to damages, and in March 2006, the state and Ms. Wisely reached a compromise of sorts. The CDC agreed to dispose of 10 out of 11 Secure 1000 machines (the 11th was kept around for evidentiary purposes, according to Tuesday’s ruling). If, within seven years the CDC decided to use the machines again, the court vowed to hold a hearing to look into how to regulate their use.
Despite having signed a stipulation with the defendants in March 2006, Wisely tried to appeal the lower court’s ruling on damages. On Tuesday, a three-judge appeals panel unanimously ruled that because the lower court left several major questions open as to whether the CDC could start using Secure 1000 machines in the future, the Court of Appeal couldn’t step in. In essence, there were so many issues left unresolved by the lower court, it wasn’t appropriate for the higher court to step in.
“Because it requires further judicial action in this case if the CDC attempts to use backscatter technology in the future, the [order] … is not now an appealable final judgment,” Perluss wrote.
So Ms. Wisely could not undo the lower court ruling. Now if only I could undo seeing Susan Hallowell in her skivvies!
— Jessie Seyfer