Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 13 (2002)

Page:   Index   Previous  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  Next



Opinion of the Court

informing the ADOC of the constitutional infirmity in its use of the hitching post, we readily conclude that the respondents' conduct violated "clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow, 457 U. S., at 818.

Cases decided by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit before 1981 are binding precedent in the Eleventh Circuit today. See Bonner v. Prichard, 661 F. 2d 1206 (CA11 1981). In one of those cases, decided in 1974, the Court of Appeals reviewed a District Court decision finding a number of constitutional violations in the administration of Mississippi's prisons. Gates v. Collier, 501 F. 2d 1291. That opinion squarely held that several of those "forms of corporal punishment run afoul of the Eighth Amendment [and] offend contemporary concepts of decency, human dignity, and precepts of civilization which we profess to possess." Id., at 1306. Among those forms of punishment were "handcuffing inmates to the fence and to cells for long periods of time, . . . and forcing inmates to stand, sit or lie on crates, stumps, or otherwise maintain awkward positions for prolonged periods." Ibid. The fact that Gates found several forms of punishment impermissible does not, as respondents suggest, lessen the force of its holding with respect to handcuffing inmates to cells or fences for long periods of time. Nor, for the purpose of providing fair notice to reasonable officers administering punishment for past misconduct, is there any reason to draw a constitutional distinction between a practice of handcuffing an inmate to a fence for prolonged periods and handcuffing him to a hitching post for seven hours. The Court of Appeals' conclusion to the contrary exposes the danger of a rigid, overreliance on factual similarity. As the Government submits in its brief amicus curiae: "No reasonable officer could have concluded that the constitutional holding of Gates turned on the fact that inmates were handcuffed to fences or the bars of cells, rather than a specially designed metal bar designated for shackling. If anything, the use of

Page:   Index   Previous  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007