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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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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Assault/abuse by staff
Disciplinary procedures
Restraints : physical
Type of Facility
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.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 1996
Case Closing Year 2005
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

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

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

01-309 (U.S. Supreme Court)
PC-AL-0028-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/21/2002
00-12150-DD (U.S. Court of Appeals)
PC-AL-0028-9002.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/15/2002
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
2:96-cv-02968-KOB (N.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0028-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/04/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion [Re: Dismissal] (2000 WL 35501948) (N.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0028-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/24/2000
[Order Affirming District Court] (240 F.3d 975)
PC-AL-0028-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/02/2001
Source: Google Scholar
Granting Writ of Certiorari (534 U.S. 1073)
PC-AL-0028-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/04/2002
Source: Westlaw
Amended Grant of Writ of Certiorari (534 U.S. 1120)
PC-AL-0028-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/29/2002
[Opinion] (536 U.S. 730)
PC-AL-0028-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/27/2002
Source: Google Scholar
[Order] (304 F.3d 1331)
PC-AL-0028-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/12/2002
Amended and Substituted Complaint and Jury Demand [ECF# 77]
PC-AL-0028-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/20/2004
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 109] (N.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0028-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/28/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order (N.D. Ala.)
PC-AL-0028-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/08/2005
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 (SCOTUS, First Circuit)
Buttram, H. Dean Jr. (N.D. Ala.)
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (SCOTUS, D.C. Circuit)
Kennedy, Anthony McLeod (SCOTUS, Ninth Circuit)
O'Connor, Sandra Day (SCOTUS)
Ott, John E. (N.D. Ala.)
Rehnquist, William Hubbs (SCOTUS)
Scalia, Antonin (SCOTUS, D.C. Circuit)
Souter, David Hackett (SCOTUS, First Circuit)
Stevens, John Paul (SCOTUS, Seventh Circuit)
Thomas, Clarence (SCOTUS, D.C. Circuit)
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit, M.D. Fla.)
PC-AL-0028-0004 | PC-AL-0028-0006
Vining, Robert L. Jr. (N.D. Ga.)
PC-AL-0028-0004 | PC-AL-0028-0006
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)
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)
Schaerr, Gene C. (District of Columbia)
PC-AL-0028-0005 | PC-AL-0028-9001
Schlick, Austin C. (District of Columbia)

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