Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 18 (2002)

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

Opinion of the Court

work"). The Court of Appeals clearly held the act of cuffing petitioner to the hitching post itself to suffice as an unconstitutional act: "We find that cuffing an inmate to a hitching post for a period of time extending past that required to address an immediate danger or threat is a violation of the Eighth Amendment." Ibid. Although the court continued that "[t]his violation is exacerbated by the lack of proper clothing, water, or bathroom breaks," ibid., this embellishment was not the basis of its decision, and our own decision adequately rests on the same assumption that sufficed for the Court of Appeals.

Third, in applying the objective immunity test of what a reasonable officer would understand, the significance of federal judicial precedent is a function in part of the Judiciary's structure. The unreported District Court opinions cited by the officers are distinguishable on their own terms.12 But

regardless, they would be no match for the Circuit precedents13 in Gates v. Collier, 501 F. 2d, at 1306, which held that "handcuffing inmates to the fence and to cells for long periods of time" was unconstitutional, and Ort v. White, 813 F. 2d, at 326, which suggested that it would be unconstitutional to inflict gratuitous pain on an inmate (by refusing him water) when punishment was unnecessary to enforce

12 In three of the decisions, the inmates were given the choice between working or being restrained. See Whitson v. Gillikin, No. CV-93-H- 1517-NE (ND Ala., Jan. 24, 1994), p. 4, App. 84; Dale v. Murphy, No. CV-85-1091-H-S (SD Ala., Feb. 4, 1986), p. 2; Ashby v. Dees, No. CV-94-U-0605-NE (ND Ala., Dec. 27, 1994), p. 6. In others, the inmates were offered regular water and bathroom breaks. See Lane v. Findley, No. CV-93-C-1741-S (ND Ala., Aug. 4, 1994), p. 9; Williamson v. Anderson, No. CV-92-H-675-N (MD Ala., Aug. 18, 1993), p. 2; Hollis v. Folsom, No. CV-94-T-0052-N (MD Ala., Nov. 4, 1994), p. 9. Finally, in Vinson v. Thompson, No. CV-94-A-268-N (MD Ala., Dec. 9, 1994), the inmate was restrained for approximately 45 minutes. Id., at 2.

13 There are apparently no decisions on similar facts from other Circuits, presumably because Alabama is the only State to authorize the use of the hitching post in its prison system.


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