Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 17 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

post under the circumstances alleged by Hope was unlawful. The "fair and clear warning," Lanier, 520 U. S., at 271, that these cases provided was sufficient to preclude the defense of qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage.


In response to Justice Thomas' thoughtful dissent, we make the following three observations. The first is that in granting certiorari to review the summary judgment entered in favor of the officers, we did not take any question about the sufficiency of pleadings and affidavits to raise a genuine possibility that the three named officers were responsible for the punitive acts of shackling alleged. All questions raised by petitioner (the plaintiff against whom summary judgment was entered) go to the application of the standard that no immunity is available for official acts when "it would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted." Saucier v. Katz, 533 U. S., at 202. The officers' brief in opposition to certiorari likewise addressed only the legal standard of what is clearly established. The resulting focus in the case was the Eleventh Circuit's position that a violation is not clearly established unless it is the subject of a prior case of liability on facts " 'materially similar' " to those charged. 240 F. 3d, at 981. We did not take, and do not pass upon, the questions whether or to what extent the three named officers may be held responsible for the acts charged, if proved. Nothing in our decision fore-closes any defense other than qualified immunity on the ground relied upon by the Court of Appeals.

Second, we may address the immunity question on the assumption that the act of field discipline charged on each occasion was handcuffing Hope to a hitching post for an extended period apparently to inflict gratuitous pain or discomfort, with no justification in threatened harm or a continuing refusal to work. Id., at 980 (on neither occasion did Hope "refus[e] to work or encourag[e] other inmates to refuse to

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