Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 23 (2002)

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Thomas, J., dissenting


Once petitioner's allegations regarding respondents' conduct are separated from his other grievances and the mis-treatment invented by the Court, this case presents one simple question: Was it clearly established in 1995 that the mere act of cuffing petitioner to the restraining bar (or, in the case of Officer McClaran, ordering petitioner's attachment to the restraining bar) violated the Eighth Amendment? The answer to this question is also simple: Obviously not.


The Court correctly states that respondents are entitled to qualified immunity unless their conduct violated " 'clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.' " Ante, at 739 (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U. S. 800, 818 (1982)). But the Court then fails either to discuss or to apply the following important principles. Qualified immunity protects "all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law." Malley v. Briggs, 475 U. S. 335, 341 (1986). If "it would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted," then qualified immunity does not apply. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U. S. 194, 202 (2001). But if, on the other hand, "officers of reasonable competence could disagree on th[e] issue, immunity should be recognized." Malley, supra, at 341.

In evaluating whether it was clearly established in 1995 that respondents' conduct violated the Eighth Amendment, the Court of Appeals properly noted that "[i]t is important to analyze the facts in [the prior cases relied upon by petitioner where courts found Eighth Amendment violations],

ilarly here, in the absence of any allegation by petitioner that respondents were in any way responsible for the behavior of other prison guards on May 11 and June 7, the conduct of those other guards should not be considered in analyzing whether respondents are entitled to qualified immunity.

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