HopevPelzer - LARRY HOPE, PETITIONER v. MARK PELZER et al....

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LARRY HOPE, PETITIONER v. MARK PELZER et al. ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT [June 27, 2002] Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit concluded that petitioner Larry Hope, a former prison inmate at the Limestone Prison in Alabama, was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment when prison guards twice handcuffed him to a hitching post to sanction him for disruptive conduct. Because that conclusion was not supported by earlier cases with “materially similar” facts, the court held that the respondents were entitled to qualified immunity, and therefore affirmed summary judgment in their favor. We granted certiorari to determine whether the Court of Appeals’ qualified immunity holding comports with our decision in United States v. Lanier, 520 U.S. 259 (1997). I In 1995, Alabama was the only State that followed the practice of chaining inmates to one another in work squads. It was also the only State that handcuffed prisoners to “hitching posts” if they either refused to work or otherwise disrupted work squads. 1 Hope was handcuffed to a hitching post on two occasions. On May 11, 1995, while Hope was working in a chain gang near an interstate highway, he got into an argument with another inmate. Both men were taken back to the Limestone prison and handcuffed to a hitching post. Hope was released two hours later, after the guard captain determined that the altercation had been caused by the other inmate. During his two hours on the post, Hope was offered drinking water and a bathroom break every 15 minutes, and his responses to these offers were recorded on an activity log. Because he was only slightly taller than the hitching post, his arms were above shoulder height and grew tired from being handcuffed so high. Whenever he tried moving his arms to improve his circulation, the handcuffs cut into his wrists, causing pain and discomfort. On June 7, 1995, Hope was punished more severely. He took a nap during the morning bus ride to the chain gang’s worksite, and when it arrived he was less than prompt in responding to an order to get off the bus. An exchange of vulgar remarks led to a wrestling match with a guard. Four other guards intervened, subdued Hope, handcuffed him, placed him in leg irons and transported him back to the prison where he was put on the hitching post. The guards made him take off his shirt, and he remained shirtless all day while the sun burned his skin. 2 He remained attached to the post for approximately seven hours. During this 7-hour period, he was given water only once or twice and was given no bathroom breaks. 3 At one point, a guard taunted Hope about his thirst. According to Hope’s affidavit: “[The guard] first gave water to some dogs, then brought the water cooler closer to me, removed its lid, and kicked the cooler over, spilling the water onto the ground.” App. 11.
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HopevPelzer - LARRY HOPE, PETITIONER v. MARK PELZER et al....

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