The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota with attorney James Leach of Rapid City, South Dakota filed two important lawsuits challenging the use of forced catheterization. One lawsuit involved a minor child and was against the South Dakota Department of Social Services and Avera St. Mary’s Hospital. The other lawsuit was filed on behalf of six adults against the City of Wagner and the Wagner Police Department, the City of Pierre and the Pierre Police Department, the City of Sisseton and the Sisseton Police Department, and the South Dakota Highway Patrol along with individually named law enforcement officers.
All plaintiffs were subjected by law enforcement and state officials to forcible catheterization in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
The Hunter case
As part of an investigation into a suspected case of child abuse and on the order and direction of the South Dakota Department of Social Services, the Avera St. Mary’s hospital in Pierre forcibly catheterized a three-year-old boy. The South Dakota Department of Social Services obtained involuntary and coerced consent from the child’s mother, under the threat of the removal of her children, who was being investigated after her boyfriend was arrested for a probation violation. The complaint filed on her behalf and on behalf of her child challenges the practice of catheterizing children who are suspected of being victims of child abuse in violation of their rights under the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The child was emotionally traumatized and suffered a staph infection as a result of the catheterization. The Judge issued a ruling granting most of Defendants’ motions for summary judgement. Plaintiffs settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
The Riis case
According to the 2018 complaint, all adult plaintiffs were forcibly catheterized on the direction of the police after they forced the police to seek warrants for the collection of bodily fluids. None of the search warrants obtained by police specifically authorized forced catheterization as a means of obtaining evidence. The complaint argued that forcible catheterization is a practice that runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Just recently, the federal judge issued an Opinion and Order on Summary Judgment. He denounced the practice of forced catherization calling it unconstitutional. The case now moves onto the trial phase.
The lawsuits are titled Hunter, on behalf of herself v. South Dakota Department of Social Services and Avera St. Mary’s Hospital, et. al and Riis, et. al. v. Pierre Police Department, Sisseton Police Department, and the South Dakota Highway Patrol, et. al.