Are pretrial detainees granted greater civil rights protection than convicted prisoners? Does subjective intent matter in real life cases? What are the implications—and limitations—of the Supreme Court’s Kingsley decision on pretrial detainees’ civil rights claims? These questions and more will be explored at a panel on the Kingsley decision, led by Stephen Haedicke, at the FBA Civil Rights Section’s upcoming “Civil Rights Étouffée CLE” in New Orleans.
In Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S. Ct. 2466 (2015), the Supreme Court held that a pretrial detainee may prevail on a § 1983 excessive force claim if he or she shows that the force used was objectively unreasonable, regardless of whether the officer had a subjective intent to cause the detainee harm. In reaching this decision, the Court seemed to grant greater protection to pretrial detainees under the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause than is given to convicted prisoners under the Eighth Amendment, which still requires proof of a subjective intent to cause harm before a violation will be found.
Noting some of the broad language in the Kingsley opinion, the Ninth Circuit has recently interpreted its holding to apply to all § 1983 claims brought by pretrial detainees, not just those founded on allegations of excessive force. Castro v. County of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060 (9th Cir. 2016). Other circuits have yet to interpret Kingsley outside the excessive force context, but it is surely an issue percolating up through the federal court system. A circuit split could, of course, mean that the issue would be back in front of the Supreme Court. Given the narrow majority in Kingsley itself (it was a 5 to 4 decision), it will be interesting to see whether the case is read expansively or, instead, is limited to the excessive-force context.
The “Civil Rights Étouffée CLE,” to be held on April 7, will feature a full day of panels across various civil rights issues. From immigration to marijuana legalization, use of force to First Amendment policing, there will be panels to interest everyone. More information, including a full agenda, can be found on the program page.