Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 7 (1994)

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Cite as: 511 U. S. 825 (1994)

Opinion of the Court

transferred petitioner to USP-Terre Haute or placed petitioner in its general population despite knowledge that the penitentiary had a violent environment and a history of inmate assaults, and despite knowledge that petitioner, as a transsexual who "projects feminine characteristics," would be particularly vulnerable to sexual attack by some USP-Terre Haute inmates. This allegedly amounted to a deliberately indifferent failure to protect petitioner's safety, and thus to a violation of petitioner's Eighth Amendment rights. Petitioner sought compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction barring future confinement in any penitentiary, including USP-Terre Haute.1

Respondents filed a motion for summary judgment supported by several affidavits, to which petitioner responded with an opposing affidavit and a cross-motion for summary judgment; petitioner also invoked Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f), asking the court to delay its ruling until respondents had complied with petitioner's pending request for production of documents. Respondents then moved for a protective order staying discovery until resolution of the issue of qualified immunity, raised in respondents' summary judgment motion.

Without ruling on respondents' request to stay discovery, the District Court denied petitioner's Rule 56(f) motion and granted summary judgment to respondents, concluding that there had been no deliberate indifference to petitioner's safety. The failure of prison officials to prevent inmate assaults violates the Eighth Amendment, the court stated, only if prison officials were "reckless in a criminal sense," meaning that they had "actual knowledge" of a potential danger. App. 124. Respondents, however, lacked the requisite

1 Petitioner also sought an order requiring the Bureau of Prisons to place petitioner in a "co-correctional facility" (i. e., one separately housing male and female prisoners but allowing coeducational programming). Petitioner tells us, however, that the Bureau no longer operates such facilities, and petitioner apparently no longer seeks this relief.


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