Appeals court upholds ex-prison guard's firing

2011-10-12T20:30:00Z 2011-10-12T21:56:22Z Appeals court upholds ex-prison guard's firingBy LORI PILGER / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
October 12, 2011 8:30 pm  • 

The Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the 2007 firing of a Lincoln prison guard after he refused to allow his vehicle to be searched while parked in a lot next to the Lincoln Correctional Center.

Brian True had sued to get his job back, arguing the search violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.

In May, U.S. District Court, Chief District Judge Joseph Bataillon dismissed his suit, saying the search was reasonable "because it is meant to keep contraband out of the institution" and because it is random.

Wednesday's three-paragraph order affirmed the ruling, saying the judgment was based on findings of fact "that are not clearly erroneous."

In January 2007, True was a corporal at the Correctional Center when he got a call from shift supervisors who were going to search his car. He asked what consequences he would face if he declined permission to search and ended up suspended without pay.

In June 2007, he was fired, and he sued the state and Corrections Director Robert Houston plus the warden and deputy warden at LCC, alleging his rights had been violated.

True conceded he didn't have to park in that lot, where signs indicate vehicles are subject to search. But he argued the searches violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches, and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment because search warrants are needed to search visitors' cars.

When the district court found for the defendants and the case was dismissed, True appealed.

That time, the Eighth Circuit Court sent it back to district court to take up the issue of whether inmates had access to the lot where True was parked. In May, Bataillon found they did not, but that community custody inmates who can leave and re-enter did.

In the order, Bataillon said that based on the evidence, the search was reasonable and didn't violate the equal protection clause because the searches were random and not targeted toward specific people.

Reach Lori Pilger at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com or follow her on Twitter at LJSpilger.

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