__ U.S. __ (2015), 14-6368, Kingsley v. Hendrickson

Docket Nº:14-6368
Citation:__ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 192 L.Ed.2d 416, 83 U.S.L.W. 4515
Opinion Judge:BREYER, JUSTICE.
Party Name:MICHAEL B. KINGSLEY, PETITIONER v. STAN HENDRICKSON, ET AL
Attorney:Wendy M. Ward argued the cause for petitioner. John F. Bash argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae. Paul D. Clement argued the cause for respondents.
Judge Panel:BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, J., joined. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion. JUSTICE SCALIA, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE TH...
Case Date:June 22, 2015
Court:United States Supreme Court
SUMMARY

While Kingsley was awaiting trial in county jail, officers forcibly removed him from his cell when he refused to comply with instructions. Kingsley filed a complaint claiming that two of the officers used excessive force. The court instructed the jury that Kingsley was required to prove that the officers “recklessly disregarded [Kingsley’s] safety” and “acted with reckless disregard of [his]... (see full summary)

 
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Page __

__ U.S. __ (2015)

135 S.Ct. 2466, 192 L.Ed.2d 416, 83 U.S.L.W. 4515, 25 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 401

MICHAEL B. KINGSLEY, PETITIONER

v.

STAN HENDRICKSON, ET AL

No. 14-6368

United States Supreme Court

June 22, 2015

[135 S.Ct. 2467] Argued April 27, 2015.

Editorial Note:

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the printed official reporter.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

744 F.3d 443, vacated and remanded.

SYLLABUS

[135 S.Ct. 2468] [192 L.Ed.2d 421] While petitioner Kingsley was awaiting trial in county jail, officers forcibly removed him from his cell when he refused to comply with their instructions. Kingsley filed a complaint in Federal District Court claiming, as relevant here, that two of the officers used excessive force against him in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. At the trial's conclusion, the District Court instructed the jury that Kingsley was required to prove, inter alia, that the officers " recklessly disregarded [Kingsley's] safety" and " acted with reckless disregard of [his] rights." The jury found in the officers' favor. On appeal, Kingsley argued that the jury instruction did not adhere to the proper standard for judging a pretrial detainee's excessive force claim, namely, objective unreasonableness. [192 L.Ed.2d 422] The Seventh Circuit disagreed, holding that the law required a subjective inquiry into the officers' state of mind, i.e., whether the officers actually intended to violate, or recklessly disregarded, Kingsley's rights.

Held :

1. Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a pretrial detainee must show only that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable to prevail on an excessive force claim. Pp. 5-13.

(a) This determination must be made from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, including what the officer knew at the time, see Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443, and must account for the " legitimate interests [stemming from the government's] need to manage the facility in which the individual is detained," appropriately deferring to " policies and practices that in th[e] judgment" of jail officials " are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security," Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 540, 547, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447. Pp. 5-7.

[135 S.Ct. 2469] (b) Several considerations lead to this conclusion. An objective standard is consistent with precedent. In Bell, for instance, this Court held that a pretrial detainee could prevail on a claim that his due process rights were violated by providing only objective evidence that the challenged governmental action was not rationally related to a legitimate governmental objective or that it was excessive in relation to that purpose. 441 U.S., at 541-543, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447. Cf. Block v. Rutherford, 468 U.S. 576, 585-586, 104 S.Ct. 3227, 82 L.Ed.2d 438. Experience also suggests that an objective standard is workable. It is consistent with the pattern jury instructions used in several Circuits, and many facilities train officers to interact with detainees as if the officers' conduct is subject to objective reasonableness. Finally, the use of an objective standard adequately protects an officer who acts in good faith, e.g., by acknowledging that judging the reasonableness of the force used from the perspective and with the knowledge of the defendant officer is an appropriate part of the analysis. Pp. 7-10.

(c) None of the cases respondents point to provides significant support for a subjective standard. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 106 S.Ct. 1078, 89 L.Ed.2d 251, and Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 112 S.Ct. 995, 117 L.Ed.2d 156, lack relevance in this context because they involved claims brought by convicted prisoners under the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, not claims brought by pretrial detainees under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. And in County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 118 S.Ct. 1708, 140 L.Ed.2d 1043, a statement indicating the need to show " purpose to cause harm," id., at 854, 118 S.Ct. 1708, 140 L.Ed.2d 1043, for due process liability refers not to whether the force intentionally used was excessive, but whether the defendant intended to commit the acts in question, id., at 854, 118 S.Ct. 1708, 140 L.Ed.2d 1043, and n. 13. Finally, in Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028 (CA2), a malicious-and-sadistic-purpose-to-cause-harm factor was not suggested as a necessary condition for liability, but as a factor, among others, [192 L.Ed.2d 423] that might help show that the use of force was excessive. Pp. 10-13.

2. Applying the proper standard, the jury instruction was erroneous. Taken together, the features of that instruction suggested that the jury should weigh respondents' subjective reasons for using force and subjective views about the excessiveness of that force. Respondents' claim that, irrespective of this Court's holding, any error in the instruction was harmless is left to the Seventh Circuit to resolve on remand. Pp. 13-14.

744 F.3d 443, vacated and remanded.

Wendy M. Ward argued the cause for petitioner.

John F. Bash argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae.

Paul D. Clement argued the cause for respondents.

BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, J., joined. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

OPINION

[135 S.Ct. 2470] BREYER, JUSTICE.

In this case, an individual detained in a jail prior to trial brought a claim under Rev. Stat. § 1979, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against several jail officers, alleging that they used excessive force against him, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. The officers concede that they intended to use the force that they used. But the parties disagree about whether the force used was excessive.

The question before us is whether, to prove an excessive force claim, a pretrial detainee must show that the officers were subjectively aware that their use of force was unreasonable, or only that the officers' use of that force was objectively unreasonable. We conclude that the latter standard is the correct one.

I

A

Some but not all of the facts are undisputed: Michael Kingsley, the petitioner, was arrested on a drug charge and detained in a Wisconsin county jail prior to trial. On the evening of May 20, 2010, an officer performing a cell check noticed a piece of paper covering the light fixture above Kingsley's bed. The officer told Kingsley to remove it; Kingsley refused; subsequently other officers told Kingsley to remove the paper; and each time Kingsley refused. The next morning, the jail administrator, Lieutenant Robert Conroy, ordered Kingsley to remove the paper. Kingsley once again refused. Conroy then told Kingsley that officers would remove the paper and that he would be moved to a receiving cell in the interim.

Shortly thereafter, four officers, including respondents Sergeant Stan Hendrickson and Deputy Sheriff Fritz Degner, approached the cell and ordered Kingsley to stand, back up to the door, and keep his hands behind him. When Kingsley refused to comply, the officers handcuffed him, forcibly removed him from the cell, carried him to a receiving cell, and placed him face down on a bunk with his hands handcuffed behind his back.

The parties' views about what happened next differ. The officers testified that Kingsley resisted their efforts to remove his handcuffs. Kingsley testified that he did not resist. All agree that Sergeant Hendrickson placed his [192 L.Ed.2d 424] knee in Kingsley's back and Kingsley told him in impolite language to get off. Kingsley testified that Hendrickson and Degner then slammed his head into the concrete bunk--an allegation the officers deny.

The parties agree, however, about what happened next: Hendrickson directed Degner to stun Kingsley with a Taser; Degner applied a Taser to Kingsley's back for approximately five seconds; the officers then left the handcuffed Kingsley alone in the receiving cell; and officers returned to the cell 15 minutes later and removed Kingsley's handcuffs.

B

Based on these and related events, Kingsley filed a § 1983 complaint in Federal District Court claiming (among other [135 S.Ct. 2471] things) that Hendrickson and Degner used excessive force against him, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. The officers moved for summary judgment, which the District Court denied, stating that " a reasonable jury could conclude that [the officers] acted with malice and intended to harm [Kingsley] when they used force against him." Kingsley v. Josvai, No. 10-cv-832-bbc (WD Wis., Nov. 16, 2011), App to Pet. for Cert. 66a-67a. Kingsley's excessive force claim accordingly proceeded to trial. At the conclusion of the trial, the District Court instructed the jury as follows:

" Excessive force means force applied recklessly that is unreasonable in light of the facts and circumstances of the time. Thus, to succeed on his claim of excessive use of force, plaintiff must prove each of the following factors by a preponderance of the evidence:

" (1) Defendants used force on plaintiff; " (2) Defendants' use of force was unreasonable in light of the facts and circumstances at the time; " (3) Defendants knew that using force presented a risk of harm to plaintiff, but they recklessly disregarded plaintiff's safety by failing to...

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