Hudson v. Palmer
Annotate this Case
468 U.S. 517 (1984)
U.S. Supreme Court
Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984)
Hudson v. Palmer
Argued December 7, 1983
Decided July 3, 1984*
468 U.S. 517
Respondent, an inmate at a Virginia penal institution, filed an action in Federal District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against petitioner, an officer at the institution, alleging that petitioner had conducted an unreasonable "shakedown" search of respondent's prison locker and cell and had brought a false charge, under prison disciplinary procedures, of destroying state property against respondent solely to harass him; and that, in violation of respondent's Fourteenth Amendment right not to be deprived of property without due process of law, petitioner had intentionally destroyed certain of respondent's noncontraband personal property during the search. The District Court granted summary judgment for petitioner, and the Court of Appeals affirmed with regard to the District Court's holding that respondent was not deprived of his property without due process. The Court of Appeals concluded that the decision in Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U. S. 527 -- holding that a negligent deprivation of a prison inmate's property by state officials does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment if an adequate postdeprivation state remedy exists -- should extend also to intentional deprivations of property. However, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded with regard to respondent's claim that the "shakedown" search was unreasonable. The court held that a prisoner has a "limited privacy right" in his cell entitling him to protection against searches conducted solely to harass or to humiliate, and that a remand was necessary to determine the purpose of the search here.
1. A prisoner has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his prison cell entitling him to the protection of the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches. While prisoners enjoy many protections of the Constitution that are not fundamentally inconsistent with imprisonment itself or incompatible with the objectives of incarceration, imprisonment carries with it the circumscription or loss of many rights as being necessary to accommodate the institutional needs and objectives of prison facilities, particularly internal security and safety. It would be impossible
to accomplish the prison objectives of preventing the introduction of weapons, drugs, and other contraband into the premises if inmates retained a right of privacy in their cells. The unpredictability that attends random searches of cells renders such searches perhaps the most effective weapon of the prison administrator in the fight against the proliferation of weapons, drugs, and other contraband. A requirement that random searches be conducted pursuant to an established plan would seriously undermine the effectiveness of this weapon. Pp. 468 U. S. 522-530.
2. There is no merit to respondent's contention that the destruction of his personal property constituted an unreasonable seizure of that property violative of the Fourth Amendment. Assuming that the Fourth Amendment protects against the destruction of property, in addition to its mere seizure, the same reasons that lead to the conclusion that the Amendment's proscription against unreasonable searches is inapplicable in a prison cell apply with controlling force to seizures. Prison officials must be free to seize from cells any articles which, in their view, disserve legitimate institutional interests. P. 468 U. S. 528, n. 8.
3. Even if petitioner intentionally destroyed respondent's personal property during the challenged "shakedown" search, the destruction did not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since respondent had adequate postdeprivation remedies under Virginia law for any loss suffered. The decision in Parratt v. Taylor, supra, as to negligent deprivation by a state employee of a prisoner's property -- as well as its rationale that, when deprivations of property are effected through random and unauthorized conduct of a state employee, predeprivation procedures are "impracticable," since the state cannot know when such deprivations will occur -- also applies to intentional deprivations of property. Both the District Court and, at least implicitly, the Court of Appeals held that several common law remedies were available to respondent under Virginia law, and would provide adequate compensation for his property loss, and there is no reason to question that determination. The fact that respondent might not be able to recover under state law remedies the full amount which he might receive in a § 1983 action is not determinative of the adequacy of the state remedies. As to respondent's contention that relief under state law was uncertain because a state employee might be entitled to sovereign immunity, the courts below held that respondent's claim would not be barred by sovereign immunity, since, under Virginia law, a state employee may be held liable for his intentional torts. Pp. 468 U. S. 530-536.
697 F.2d 1220, affirmed in part and reversed in part.
BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, and in Part II-B of
which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., also joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 468 U. S. 537. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 468 U. S. 541.