Carlson v. Green, No. 78-1261

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
Citation64 L.Ed.2d 15,100 S.Ct. 1468,446 U.S. 14
Decision Date22 April 1980
Docket NumberNo. 78-1261
PartiesNorman A. CARLSON, Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons, et al., Petitioners, v. Marie GREEN, Administratrix of the Estate of Joseph Jones, Jr

446 U.S. 14
100 S.Ct. 1468
64 L.Ed.2d 15
Norman A. CARLSON, Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons, et al., Petitioners,

v.

Marie GREEN, Administratrix of the Estate of Joseph Jones, Jr.

No. 78-1261.
Argued Jan. 7, 1980.
Decided April 22, 1980.
Syllabus

Respondent brought suit in Federal District Court in Indiana on behalf of her deceased son's estate, alleging that her son while a prisoner in a federal prison in Indiana suffered personal injuries from which he died because petitioner prison officials violated, inter alia, his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to give him proper medical attention. Asserting jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331(a), respondent claimed compensatory and punitive damages. The District Court held that the allegations pleaded a violation of the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment, thus giving rise to a cause of action for damages under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619, under which it was established that victims of a constitutional violation by a federal official have a right to recover damages against the official in federal court despite the absence of any statute conferring such a right. But the court dismissed the complaint on the ground that, although the decedent could have maintained the action if he had survived, the damages remedy as a matter of federal law was limited to that provided by Indiana's survivorship and wrongful-death laws, which the court construed as making the damages available to the decedent's estate insufficient to meet § 1331(a)'s $10,000 jurisdictional-amount requirement. While otherwise agreeing with the District Court, the Court of Appeals held that the latter requirement was satisfied because whenever a state survivorship statute would abate a Bivens -type action, the federal common law allows survival of the action.

Held:

1. A Bivens remedy is available to respondent even though the allegations could also support a suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Pp. 1471-1474.

(a) Neither of the situations in which a cause of action under Bivens may be defeated are present here. First, the case involves no special factors counseling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress, petitioners not enjoying such independent status in our

Page 15

constitutional scheme as to suggest that judicially created remedies against them might be inappropriate. Second, there is no explicit congressional declaration that persons injured by federal officers' violations of the Eighth Amendment may not recover damages from the officers but must be remitted to another remedy, equally effective in Congress' view. There is nothing in the FTCA or its legislative history to show that Congress meant to pre-empt a Bivens remedy or to create an equally effective remedy for constitutional violations. Rather, in the absence of a contrary expression from Congress, the FTCA's provision creating a cause of action against the United States for intentional torts committed by federal law enforcement officers, contemplates that victims of the kind of intentional wrongdoing alleged in the complaint in this case shall have an action under the FTCA against the United States as well as a Bivens action against the individual officials alleged to have infringed their constitutional rights. Pp. 1471-1472.

(b) The following factors also support the conclusion that Congress did not intend to limit respondent to an FTCA action: (i) the Bivens remedy, being recoverable against individuals, is a more effective deterrent than the FTCA remedy against the United States; (ii) punitive damages may be awarded in a Bivens suit, but are statutorily prohibited in an FTCA suit; (iii) a plaintiff cannot opt for a jury trial in an FTCA action as he may in a Bivens suit; and (iv) an action under the FTCA exists only if the States in which the alleged misconduct occurred would permit a cause of action for that misconduct to go forward. Pp. 1472-1474.

2. Since Bivens actions are a creation of federal law, the question whether respondent's action survived her son's death is a question of federal law. Only a uniform federal rule of survivorship will suffice to redress the constitutional deprivation here alleged and to protect against repetition of such conduct. Robertson v. Wegmann, 436 U.S. 584, distinguished. Pp. 1474-1475.

581 F.2d 669 (7th Cir.), affirmed.

Kenneth S. Geller, Washington, D. C., for petitioners.

Page 16

Michael E. Deutsch, Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent brought this suit in the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on behalf of the estate of her deceased son, Joseph Jones, Jr., alleging that he suffered personal injuries from which he died because the petitioners, federal prison officials, violated his due process, equal protection, and Eighth Amendment rights.1 Asserting jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331(a), she claimed compensatory and punitive damages for the constitutional violations. Two questions are presented for decision: (1) Is a remedy available directly under the Constitution, given that respondent's allegations could also support a suit against the United States

Page 17

under the Federal Tort Claims Act? 2 And (2) if so, is survival of the cause of action governed by federal common law or by state statutes?

I

The District Court held that under Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976), the allegations set out in note 1, supra, pleaded a violation of the Eighth Amendment's proscription against infliction of cruel and unusual punishment,3 giving rise to a cause of action for damages under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971). The court recognized that the decedent could have maintained this action if he had survived, but dismissed the complaint because in its view the damages remedy as a matter of federal law was limited to that provided by Indiana's survivorship and wrongful-death laws and, as the court construed those laws, the damages available to Jones' estate failed to meet § 1331(a)'s $10,000 jurisdictional-amount requirement. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed that an Eighth Amendment violation was pleaded under Estelle and that a cause of action was stated under Bivens, but reversed the holding that § 1331(a)'s jurisdictional-amount requirement was not met.4 Rather, the Court of Appeals held that

Page 18

§ 1331(a) was satisfied because "whenever the relevant state survival statute would abate a Bivens -type action brought against defendants whose conduct results in death, the federal common law allows survival of the action." 581 F.2d 669, 675 (1978). The court reasoned that the Indiana law, if applied, would "subvert" "the policy of allowing complete vindication of constitutional rights" by making it "more advantageous for a tortfeasor to kill rather than to injure." Id., at 674. We granted certiorari. 442 U.S. 940, 99 S.Ct. 2880, 61 L.Ed.2d 309 (1979). We affirm.

II

Bivens established that the victims of a constitutional violation by a federal agent have a right to recover damages against the official in federal court despite the absence of any statute conferring such a right. Such a cause of action may be defeated in a particular case, however, in two situations. The first is when defendants demonstrate "special factors counselling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress." 403 U.S., at 396, 91 S.Ct., at 2004; Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228, 245, 99 S.Ct. 2264, 2277, 60 L.Ed.2d 846 (1979). The second is when defendants show that Congress has provided an alternative remedy which it explicitly declared to be a substitute for recovery directly

Page 19

under the Constitution and viewed as equally effective. Bivens, supra, at 397, 91 S.Ct., at 2005; Davis v. Passman, supra, at 245-247, 99 S.Ct., at 2277-2278.

Neither situation obtains in this case. First, the case involves no special factors counselling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress. Petitioners do not enjoy such independent status in our constitutional scheme as to suggest that judicially created remedies against them might be inappropriate. Davis v. Passman, supra, at 246, 99 S.Ct., at 2277. Moreover, even if requiring them to defend respondent's suit might inhibit their efforts to perform their official duties, the qualified immunity accorded them under Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 98 S.Ct. 2894, 57 L.Ed.2d 895 (1978), provides adequate protection. See Davis v. Passman, supra, at 246, 99 S.Ct., at 2277.

Second, we have here no explicit congressional declaration that persons injured by federal officers' violations of the Eighth Amendment may not recover money damages from the agents but must be remitted to another remedy, equally effective in the view of Congress. Petitioners point to nothing in the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) or its legislative history to show that Congress meant to pre-empt a Bivens remedy or to create an equally effective remedy for constitutional violations.5 FTCA was enacted long before Bivens was decided, but when Congress amended FTCA in 1974 to create a cause of action against the United States for intentional torts committed by federal law enforcement officers, 28 U.S.C. § 2680(h), the congressional comments accompanying

Page 20

that amendment made it crystal clear that Congress views FTCA and Bivens as parallel, complementary causes of action:

"[A]fter the date of enactment of this measure, innocent individuals who are subjected to raids [like that in Bivens ] will have a cause of action against the individual Federal agents and the Federal Government. Furthermore, this provision should be viewed as a counterpart to the Bivens case and its progenty [sic ], in that it waives the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2337 practice notes
  • American Baptist Churches in the USA v. Meese, No. C-85-3255 RFP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • March 24, 1989
    ...v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228, 99 S.Ct. 2264, 60 L.Ed.2d 846 (1979) (equal protection component of Fifth Amendment), and Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 100 S.Ct. 1468, 64 L.Ed.2d 15 (1980) (Eighth Amendment). So construed, the court clearly possesses federal question jurisdiction to hear plainti......
  • Van Gessel v. Moore, 1:18-cv-01478-DAD-GSA-PC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 24, 2020
    ...unreasonable searches and seizures); Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228 (1979) (Fifth Amendment gender-discrimination); Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14 (1980) (Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause for failure to provide adequate medical treatment). The Supreme Court has "consiste......
  • Creedle v. Miami-Dade Cnty., Case No. 17-CIV-22477-WILLIAMS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
    • November 9, 2018
    ...for gender discrimination." Ziglar , 137 S.Ct. at 1854-55 (citing Davis , 442 U.S. at 248-49, 99 S.Ct. 2264 ).17 "[I]n Carlson v. Green , 446 U.S. 14, 100 S.Ct. 1468, 64 L.Ed.2d 15 (1980), a prisoner's estate sued federal jailers for failing to treat the prisoner's asthma. The Court held th......
  • Vance v. Rumsfeld, Nos. 10–1687
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • November 7, 2012
    ...442 U.S. 228, 99 S.Ct. 2264, 60 L.Ed.2d 846 (1979), and for violations of the eighth amendment by prison guards, see Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 100 S.Ct. 1468, 64 L.Ed.2d 15 (1980). It has not created another during the last 32 years—though it has reversed more than a dozen appellate de......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2304 cases
  • American Baptist Churches in the USA v. Meese, No. C-85-3255 RFP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • March 24, 1989
    ...v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228, 99 S.Ct. 2264, 60 L.Ed.2d 846 (1979) (equal protection component of Fifth Amendment), and Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 100 S.Ct. 1468, 64 L.Ed.2d 15 (1980) (Eighth Amendment). So construed, the court clearly possesses federal question jurisdiction to hear plainti......
  • Van Gessel v. Moore, 1:18-cv-01478-DAD-GSA-PC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 24, 2020
    ...unreasonable searches and seizures); Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228 (1979) (Fifth Amendment gender-discrimination); Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14 (1980) (Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause for failure to provide adequate medical treatment). The Supreme Court has "consiste......
  • Creedle v. Miami-Dade Cnty., Case No. 17-CIV-22477-WILLIAMS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
    • November 9, 2018
    ...for gender discrimination." Ziglar , 137 S.Ct. at 1854-55 (citing Davis , 442 U.S. at 248-49, 99 S.Ct. 2264 ).17 "[I]n Carlson v. Green , 446 U.S. 14, 100 S.Ct. 1468, 64 L.Ed.2d 15 (1980), a prisoner's estate sued federal jailers for failing to treat the prisoner's asthma. The Court held th......
  • Vance v. Rumsfeld, Nos. 10–1687
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • November 7, 2012
    ...442 U.S. 228, 99 S.Ct. 2264, 60 L.Ed.2d 846 (1979), and for violations of the eighth amendment by prison guards, see Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 100 S.Ct. 1468, 64 L.Ed.2d 15 (1980). It has not created another during the last 32 years—though it has reversed more than a dozen appellate de......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 books & journal articles
  • PLAINLY INCOMPETENT: HOW QUALIFIED IMMUNITY BECAME AN EXCULPATORY DOCTRINE OF POLICE EXCESSIVE FORCE.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 170 Nbr. 2, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...creating a private cause of action against federal officers for violations of constitutional rights. See, e.g., Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14,16, 24-25 (1980) (Eighth Amendment); Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228, 248-49 (1979) (Fifth Amendment's Due Process (88) Harlow, 457 U.S. at 802-05. (8......
  • THE BRANCH BEST QUALIFIED TO ABOLISH IMMUNITY.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 93 Nbr. 5, May 2018
    • May 1, 2018
    ...See Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843, 1857 (2017) (summarizing the Court's Bivens jurisprudence since 1980). (62) See Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 19-20 (1980) ("[W]hen Congress amended [the Federal Tort Claims Act] in 1974 to create a cause of action against the United States for intent......
  • Rights, Structure, and Remediation: The Collapse of Constitutional Remedies.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 7, May 2022
    • May 1, 2022
    ...388, 427 (1971) (Black, J., dissenting) (arguing that courts may not infer causes of action absent a statutory basis), Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 32 (1980) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting) (same), and Hernandez v. Mesa, 140 S. Ct. 735, 750 (2020) (Thomas, J., concurring) (same), with Stephen......
  • Pretrial Detainees and the Objective Standard After Kingsley v. Hendrickson
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Nbr. 58-2, April 2021
    • April 1, 2021
    ...Fourth Amendment claims); see also Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228, 229–30 (1979) (allowing Fifth Amendment claims); Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 16, 18 (1980) (allowing Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims). 7. For a full explanation of these standards, see infra Section I.B. 4......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT