Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 14 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 730 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

a designated hitching post highlights the constitutional problem." Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 22. In light of Gates, the unlawfulness of the alleged conduct should have been apparent to respondents.

The reasoning, though not the holding, in a case decided by the Eleventh Circuit in 1987 sent the same message to reasonable officers in that Circuit. In Ort v. White, 813 F. 2d 318, the Court of Appeals held that an officer's temporary denials of drinking water to an inmate who repeatedly refused to do his share of the work assigned to a farm squad "should not be viewed as punishment in the strict sense, but instead as necessary coercive measures undertaken to obtain compliance with a reasonable prison rule, i. e., the requirement that all inmates perform their assigned farm squad duties." Id., at 325. "The officer's clear motive was to encourage Ort to comply with the rules and to do the work required of him, after which he would receive the water like everyone else." Ibid. The court cautioned, however, that a constitutional violation might have been present "if later, once back at the prison, officials had decided to deny [Ort] water as punishment for his refusal to work." Id., at 326. So too would a violation have occurred if the method of coercion reached a point of severity such that the recalcitrant prisoner's health was at risk. Ibid. Although the facts of the case are not identical, Ort's premise is that "physical abuse directed at [a] prisoner after he terminate[s] his resistance to authority would constitute an actionable eighth amendment violation." Id., at 324. This premise has clear applicability in this case. Hope was not restrained at the worksite until he was willing to return to work. Rather, he was removed back to the prison and placed under conditions that threatened his health. Ort therefore gave fair warning to respondents that their conduct crossed the line of what is constitutionally permissible.

Relevant to the question whether Ort provided fair warning to respondents that their conduct violated the Constitu-


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