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Judge Extends Supreme Court Ruling On Police To Cover Garbage Collectors

August 6, 1988

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ A garbageman who found a picture of a partially dressed woman while collecting trash did not violate her constitutional rights by showing the photo to friends and owes no damages, a federal judge ruled.

″The court premised its decision in part on the basis that people should expect their trash to be searched by trash collectors,″ U.S. District Judge Sam C. Pointer wrote.

Pointer said his July 25 opinion was based partly on a May Supreme Court decision that gave police the right to use evidence rooted out of the trash in criminal cases.

The trash collector’s display of the photograph, showing the woman in her underwear, was ″clearly for his own amusement,″ but violated no federal law or constitutional rights, the judge said.

The woman’s attorney, Craig Izard, said the photograph was taken as a prank by her daughter while the woman dressed last December. The photo was not in any way suggestive, but the woman found it embarrassing, he said.

The lawsuit was filed May 10 by the woman and her husband. It named the city of Oneonta and the trash collector, identified as Richard Eakes, as defendants.

Izard asked that the name of his client not be used. ″She lives in a very small town and it would be embarrassing to her. It’s bad enough what’s already happened,″ he said.

According to the suit, the man was showing off the photograph at a Christmas family gathering when one of the woman’s friends or relatives realized who it was.

The man’s ″publication of a photo of a partly clad (woman) may have caused embarrassment to her and her husband,″ Pointer wrote. ″This does not, however, infringe upon any constitutionally protected liberty interest.″

The couple is considering an appeal or possibly a state lawsuit, Izard said.

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