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Hearring v. Sliwowski

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 20, 2015

MELISSA HEARRING, Individually and as natural mother and next friend of B.H., a minor child, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KAREN SLIWOWSKI, Individually, Defendant, METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, Defendant-Appellant

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 3:10-cv-00746--William J. Haynes, Jr., Chief District Judge.

ON BRIEF:

Allison L. Bussell, James E. Robinson, Keli J. Oliver, DEPARTMENT OF LAW OF THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Phillip L. Davidson, Brentwood, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before: COLE, Chief Judge; SUTTON, Circuit Judge; BELL, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 865

SUTTON, Circuit Judge.

This dispute began in 2009 when a first-grader in the Nashville public schools complained to a teacher that her genitals hurt. The teacher sent the child to a school nurse who visually inspected the girl. Perhaps understandably, that did not make the girl's mother happy, particularly since the nurse did not seek her consent before the examination. Less understandably, the examination led to a half-dozen years of litigation.

The mother filed a money-damages action against the nurse and the school district for conducting a search in violation of her child's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. She sought $1.75 million. The first stage of this dispute ended when our court granted qualified immunity to the nurse on the ground that existing law did not clearly establish that a medical examination of a child in response to complaints of pain violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. 712 F.3d 275 (6th Cir. 2013). The second stage of this dispute seemed to end when (1) a jury rejected the mother's claim against the school district on the ground that the examination did not violate the child's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and (2) the district court rejected the mother's request for a new trial. The court, however, did not enter judgment for the school district. It instead issued an injunction that required the school system to train its nurses more effectively to prevent incidents of this sort from happening again. This impromptu injunction was not an everyday exercise of judicial power, and it is one we must reverse for three reasons: (1) the mother did not seek such an injunction; (2) the undisturbed (and now unappealed) jury verdict that no constitutional violation occurred eliminated the factual predicate for such an injunction; and (3) the mother (and daughter) lacked standing to obtain such an injunction anyway, see City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 75 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983). For these reasons and those elaborated below, we reverse and direct the district court to enter judgment in favor of the school district.

I.

In October 2009, B.H., a first-grade student in the Metropolitan Nashville Public

Page 866

Schools, complained of pain in her genitals. A school secretary called her mother, Melissa Hearring, who responded that B.H. often suffered from bladder infections. No physical examination of B.H. occurred at that point. Two days later, B.H. made a similar complaint. This time, the secretary asked the school nurse, Karen Sliwowski, to see B.H. Sliwowski and the secretary took B.H. to a faculty restroom where Sliwowski asked B.H. to remove some of her clothes. Sliwowski visually checked B.H.'s genitals for redness, including by asking B.H. to " open her labia." R. 204 at 46. The examination lasted a minute and B.H.'s genitals were exposed for " [s]econds." Id. at 13.

The aftermath lasted six years. Hearring filed this ยง 1983 money-damages action on B.H.'s behalf. She alleged that Sliwowski's examination violated B.H.'s Fourth (and Fourteenth) Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. She also alleged that the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Sliwowski's then-employer and for our purposes the " school district," violated B.H.'s Fourth Amendment rights because it did ...


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