404 U.S. 519 (1972), 70-5025, Haines v. Kerner

Docket NºNo. 70-5025
Citation404 U.S. 519, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652
Party NameHaines v. Kerner
Case DateJanuary 13, 1972
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 519

404 U.S. 519 (1972)

92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652




No. 70-5025

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 13, 1972

Argued December 6, 1971



Prisoner's pro se complaint seeking to recover damages for claimed physical injuries and deprivation of rights in imposing disciplinary confinement should not have been dismissed without affording him the opportunity to present evidence on his claims.

427 F.2d 71, reversed and remanded.

Per curiam opinion.


Petitioner, an inmate at the Illinois State Penitentiary, Menard, Illinois, commenced this action against the Governor of Illinois and other state officers and prison officials under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3), seeking to recover damages for claimed injuries and deprivation of rights while incarcerated under a judgment not challenged here.

Page 520

Petitioner's pro se complaint was premised on alleged action of prison officials placing him in solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure after he had struck another inmate on the head with a shovel following a verbal altercation. The assault by petitioner on another inmate is not denied. Petitioner's pro se complaint included general allegations of physical injuries suffered while in disciplinary confinement and denial of due process in the steps leading to that confinement. The claimed physical suffering was aggravation of a preexisting foot injury and a circulatory ailment caused by forcing him to sleep on the floor of his cell with only blankets.

The District Court granted respondents' motion under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, suggesting that only under exceptional circumstances should courts inquire into the internal operations of state penitentiaries and concluding that petitioner had failed to show a deprivation of federally protected rights. The Court of Appeals affirmed, emphasizing that prison officials are vested with "wide discretion" in disciplinary matters. We granted certiorari and appointed counsel to represent petitioner. The only issue now before us is petitioner's contention that the District Court erred in dismissing his pro se complaint without allowing him to present evidence on his claims.

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