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Pretrial detainee must only show that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectiv

"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." Petitioner Kingsley was detained on a drug charge in a Wisconsin prison. Kingsley was asked, repeatedly, to remove a piece of paper covering the light fixture above Kingsley's bed, Kingsley was ordered out of his cell to be handcuffed. Although accounts differ on what happened next, this lawsuit alleges excessive force on the basis of Kingsley's being held down, handcuffed and suffering injuries to his head being slammed during the process.

Pro. Hist.: T1: The district court denied the officer's motion for summary judgment. A jury trial ensued and the jury found in favor of the officers. T2: The Appellate Court said the trial Court erred - [The majority held that the law required a “subjective inquiry” into the officer’s state of mind. There must be “‘an actual intent to violate [the plaintiff ’s] rights or reckless disregard for his rights.’” 744 F. 3d 443, 451 (CA7 2014) (quoting Wilson v. Williams, 83 F. 3d 870, 875 (CA7 1996))]. T3: The SCOTUS agrees with the dissenting 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge - "a pretrial detainee must show only that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable." (Pp. 6).

Issue: " 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."

Holding: "only that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable to prevail on an excessive force claim." (Pp. 5–13) ("a pretrial detainee must show only that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable." (Pp. 6))

[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, 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. Pp. 5–7. The Court also provides some additional criteria to determine whether force was reasonable or unreasonable: "Considerations such as the following may bear on the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the force used: the relationship between the need for the use of force and the amount of force used; the extent of the plaintiff ’s injury; any effort made by the officer to temper or to limit the amount of force; the severity of the security problem at issue; the threat reasonably perceived by the officer; and whether the plaintiff was actively resisting. See, e.g., Graham, supra, at 396. We do not consider this list to be exclusive. We mention these factors only to illustrate the types of objective circumstances potentially relevant to a determination of excessive force."]

Interestingly, although alluding to its potential to occur in the future, the majority refused to rule on whether a recklessness standard might apply to pretrial detainees (specifically in the context of a police pursuit) in some cases. This case, however, clearly defines the differences between a pretrial detainee and someone who is a convicted prisoner: A pretrial detainee "cannot be punished at all, much less 'maliciously and sadistically.'" (Pp.11 citing Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 671-672, n. 40 (1977)). The dissent clearly defines this case as a Fourteenth and not a Fourth amendment case, stating that "Kingsley forfeited any argument under the Fourth Amendment by failing to raise it below; and he acknowledges that the Eighth Amendment standard is inapplicable." (J. Scalia, joined by Thomas).

Indeed, Justice Alito would not decide this issue without determining first whether a pretrial detainee can bring a Fourth Amendment claim based on the use of excessive force by a detention facility employee. While agreeing that the Due Process clause protects a pretrial detainee from excessive force (Graham v. Connor, 490 US 386, 395 n. 10 (1989)), Scalia took issue with the idea that "any intentional application of force that is unreasonable in degree is a use of excessive force…" Disagreeing with the constitutional nature of Kingsley's claim, Scalia states that "[e]ven if one believed that the right to process can confer the right to substance in particular cases, Kingsley's interest is not one of the 'fundamental liberty interests' that substantive due process protects."

Conclusion: Plaintiff does not need to prove that the Defendants' excessive force acts were objectively unreasonable. The Court still defers to the Court of Appeals to determine whether the jury instruction was harmless error.

The Case is KINGSLEY v. HENDRICKSON, No. 14–6368 (June 22, 2015) (

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