University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Hope v. Pelzer PC-AL-0028
Docket / Court CV-96-BE-2968-S ( N.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On November 14, 1996, a prisoner in Alabama's Limestone Correctional Facility, represented by private counsel, filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. §1983. The plaintiff complained that he had been subjected to ... read more >
On November 14, 1996, a prisoner in Alabama's Limestone Correctional Facility, represented by private counsel, filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. §1983. The plaintiff complained that he had been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, and to due process violations by the defendant correctional officers. According to the complaint, defendants handcuffed plaintiff to a hitching post, an outdoor restraining bar, in the sun, with little water and irregular bathroom breaks, causing him physical injury (sunburn, chafing, muscle strain and dehydration) and mental trauma and emotional distress. After the parties filed sworn affidavits and reports at the court's request, the case was dismissed on March 24, 2000, by U.S. District Judge H. Dean Buttram, who adopted the March 10, 2000, Report and Recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge John E. Ott. Judge Ott had found that the defendants had qualified immunity for their conduct. (The District Court did not address the due process claim, as the plaintiff had not signed that portion of his pleadings.)

Plaintiff appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the dismissal on qualified immunity grounds on February 2, 2001; however, reaching the constitutional question, the appellate opinion also found that the defendants' conduct did violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment to the extent that the period of restraint, without regular water and restroom breaks, exceeded the time "required to address an immediate threat or danger." Hope v. Pelzer, 240 F. 3d 975, 982 (11th Cir. 2001) (Judge Stanley F. Birch, Jr.).

On January 2, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari. Hope v. Pelzer, 534 U.S. 1120 (2002). The ACLU, the United States and several states filed amici curiae briefs on the merits. The Supreme Court issued its decision on June 27, 2002. In an opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that the prison guards' handcuffing of an already-subdued plaintiff to the hitching post subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and that the state prison guards were not shielded by qualified immunity, given the existence of binding Eleventh Circuit precedent, of their state correctional department's applicable regulation, and of a prior Department of Justice report informing the corrections department of constitutional infirmity in its use of the hitching post. Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730 (2002). Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia, dissented.

Subsequently, on August 20, 2004, plaintiff's counsel filed an amended complaint in the District Court , which sought (1) a declaratory judgment that the defendants' conduct violated the plaintiff's rights under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, (2) a permanent injunction to preclude future similar violations, (3) compensatory, punitive and nominal damages, and (4) payment (pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1988) of plaintiff's attorneys' fees and reasonable expenses. After a hearing, a defense motion for summary judgment was denied by the District Court (Judge Karon Owen Bowdre) on September 28, 2005. In her Order, Judge Bowdre ruled that the plaintiff's request for declaratory and injunctive relief had been mooted, but the damages and individual liability claims still raised disputed questions of fact.

On November 8, 2005, after the plaintiff completed his case in chief at trial, Judge Bowdre granted the defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law, ruling that individual liability of the three named defendants had not been proven, given that no evidence established that any defendant acted with deliberate indifference or was aware of a substantial risk of serious harm.

Mike Fagan - 04/08/2008


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
General
Assault/abuse by staff
Disciplinary procedures
Restraints : physical
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Alabama Department of Corrections
Limestone Correctional Facility in the Northern District of Alabama
Plaintiff Description Prisoner who was detained at Limestone Correctional Facility and was subjected to abuse by their staff, including being handcuffed to a hitching post with no water or bathroom breaks for several hours.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2005
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Links The Oyez Project, Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730 (2002).
www.oyez.org
Posted: Jun. 27, 2002
By: Oyez Project (IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
01-309 (U.S. Supreme Court) 03/21/2002
PC-AL-0028-9001 PDF | Detail
00-12150-DD (U.S. Court of Appeals) 10/15/2002
PC-AL-0028-9002 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
2:96-cv-02968-KOB (N.D. Ala.) 05/04/2006
PC-AL-0028-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion [Re: Dismissal] 03/24/2000 (2000 WL 35501948) (N.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0028-0007 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
[Order Affirming District Court] 02/02/2001 (240 F.3d 975)
PC-AL-0028-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Granting Writ of Certiorari 01/04/2002 (534 U.S. 1073)
PC-AL-0028-0009 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Amended Grant of Writ of Certiorari 01/29/2002 (534 U.S. 1120)
PC-AL-0028-0008 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
[Opinion] 06/27/2002 (536 U.S. 730)
PC-AL-0028-0005 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
[Order] 09/12/2002 (304 F.3d 1331)
PC-AL-0028-0006 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Amended and Substituted Complaint and Jury Demand 08/20/2004
PC-AL-0028-0002 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order 09/28/2005 (N.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0028-0003 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 11/08/2005 (N.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0028-0001 PDF | Detail
Judges Birch, Stanley F. Jr. (Eleventh Circuit)
PC-AL-0028-0004 | PC-AL-0028-0006
Bowdre, Karon O. (N.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0028-0001 | PC-AL-0028-0003 | PC-AL-0028-9000
Breyer, Stephen Gerald (First Circuit, SCOTUS)
PC-AL-0028-0005
Buttram, H. Dean Jr. (N.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0028-0007
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
PC-AL-0028-0005
Kennedy, Anthony McLeod (Ninth Circuit, SCOTUS)
PC-AL-0028-0005
O'Connor, Sandra Day (SCOTUS)
PC-AL-0028-0005
Ott, John E. (N.D. Ala.) [Magistrate]
PC-AL-0028-0007
Rehnquist, William Hubbs (SCOTUS)
PC-AL-0028-0005
Scalia, Antonin (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
PC-AL-0028-0005
Souter, David Hackett (First Circuit, SCOTUS)
PC-AL-0028-0005
Stevens, John Paul (Seventh Circuit, SCOTUS)
PC-AL-0028-0005
Thomas, Clarence (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
PC-AL-0028-0005
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (M.D. Fla., Eleventh Circuit, Fifth Circuit)
PC-AL-0028-0004 | PC-AL-0028-0006
Vining, Robert L. Jr. (N.D. Ga.)
PC-AL-0028-0004 | PC-AL-0028-0006
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Jones, Craig T. (Georgia)
PC-AL-0028-0002 | PC-AL-0028-0004 | PC-AL-0028-0005 | PC-AL-0028-0006 | PC-AL-0028-0007 | PC-AL-0028-9000 | PC-AL-0028-9001 | PC-AL-0028-9002
Mendelsohn, James A. (Alabama)
PC-AL-0028-0002 | PC-AL-0028-0007 | PC-AL-0028-9000 | PC-AL-0028-9001 | PC-AL-0028-9002
Defendant's Lawyers Forrester, Nathan A. (Alabama)
PC-AL-0028-0005
King, Troy Robin (Alabama)
PC-AL-0028-0007 | PC-AL-0028-9000
Leonard, Ellen Ruth (Alabama)
PC-AL-0028-0004 | PC-AL-0028-0006 | PC-AL-0028-0007 | PC-AL-0028-9000 | PC-AL-0028-9001 | PC-AL-0028-9002
Redd, Andrew Weldon (Alabama)
PC-AL-0028-0004 | PC-AL-0028-0006 | PC-AL-0028-0007 | PC-AL-0028-9000 | PC-AL-0028-9002
Thomas, Kim Tobias (Alabama)
PC-AL-0028-0004 | PC-AL-0028-0006 | PC-AL-0028-0007 | PC-AL-0028-9000 | PC-AL-0028-9002
Other Lawyers Brown, Mark R. (Ohio)
PC-AL-0028-9001
Schaerr, Gene C. (District of Columbia)
PC-AL-0028-0005 | PC-AL-0028-9001
Schlick, Austin C. (District of Columbia)
PC-AL-0028-0005

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