Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1 (1992)

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CASES ADJUDGED

IN THE

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

AT

OCTOBER TERM, 1991

HUDSON v. McMILLIAN et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fifth circuit

No. 90-6531. Argued November 13, 1991—Decided February 25, 1992

Petitioner Hudson, a Louisiana prison inmate, testified that minor bruises, facial swelling, loosened teeth, and a cracked dental plate he had suffered resulted from a beating by respondent prison guards McMillian and Woods while he was handcuffed and shackled following an argument with McMillian, and that respondent Mezo, a supervisor on duty, watched the beating but merely told the officers "not to have too much fun." The Magistrate trying Hudson's District Court suit under 42 U. S. C. 1983 found that the officers used force when there was no need to do so and that Mezo expressly condoned their actions, ruled that respondents had violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments, and awarded Hudson damages. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding, inter alia, that inmates alleging use of excessive force in violation of the Amendment must prove "significant injury" and that Hudson could not prevail because his injuries were "minor" and required no medical attention.

Held: The use of excessive physical force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment even though the inmate does not suffer serious injury. Pp. 5-12. (a) Whenever prison officials stand accused of using excessive physical force constituting "the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" violative of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, the core judicial inquiry is that set out in Whitley v. Albers, 475 U. S. 312, 320-321: whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore

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