Multi-Issue Strip Search Case

091185P.pdf 06/30/2010 Alice McCabe v. Michael Parker
[PUBLISHED] [Bye, Author, with Wollman and Murphy, Circuit Judges]
Civil case - civil rights. Plaintiffs were able to adequately present the conflicting testimony regarding the place where they were arrested during a Cedar Rapids anti-war protest, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying their requests for permission to ask leading questions during their direct examination of the arresting officers; no abuse of discretion in denying plaintiffs permission to question the officers about a settlement; jury's answers to special interrogatories were correctly interpreted by the district court as showing that the jury found plaintiffs' arrests were supported by probable cause under Iowa law; because defendant Macaulay had probable cause for plaintiffs' arrest he could not be held liable for any damages from an unlawful search conducted by others as part of plaintiffs' booking process; district court did not abuse its discretion by determining that plaintiffs' case was a "garden variety" strip search case or by using a damage comparison approach in evaluating the size of the damage award; nor did the court abuse its discretion by finding a $750,000 damage award was excessive; however, the court erred in remitting the damage award to $75,000; when a court employs a damage comparison approach and thereafter identifies a range of reasonable jury awards in similar cases, the court is not at liberty to remit the award to the low range or even somewhere in the middle; the court's only choice is to remit the award to the maximum amount identified as within the reasonable range; the matter must be remanded to the district court for recalculation of the remittitur; on remand the court should consider the effect of inflation when comparing the awards from earlier cases, and it should make an award to each plaintiff; the plaintiffs should have the option of accepting the new remittitur or undertaking a third trial on the issue of damages from their unlawful strip and body cavity searches; the award of attorneys' fees must also be reversed for reconsideration in light of the ruling on remittitur.