489 U.S. 1034 (1989)

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U.S. Supreme Court

DUDLEY v. STUBBS , 489 U.S. 1034 (1989)

489 U.S. 1034

John STUBBS. No. 88-975.

Supreme Court of the United States

February 21, 1989

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The motion of respondent for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice O'CONNOR, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE, and Justice KENNEDY join, dissenting.

Because the judgment below rests upon a fundamental misconception of this Court's decision in Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312 (1986), and conflicts with the approach taken by the vast majority of the Courts of Appeals, including a prior decision of the Second Circuit itself, I would grant the petition for certiorari. Under the decision which the Court declines to review today, prison officials are essentially held strictly liable under the Eighth Amendment for split- second decisions made in the face of serious threats to the security of the prison facility. This is precisely the result that our decision in Whitley was designed to avoid.

I [ Dudley v. Stubbs 489 U.S. 1034 (1989) ][1034-Continued.]

On February 4, 1977, the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility was the site of an institution-wide sitdown strike orchestrated and controlled by a group of prisoners known as the "Muslims." That evening, as respondent, John Stubbs, an inmate at the institution, was walking down the main corridor of C control area of the prison to make a telephone call, he was confronted by a gang of 20 to 30 Muslim prisoners. The gang was armed with homemade knives up to 16 inches in length as well as other weapons wrapped in sheets. The mob began to chase respondent through the corridors of the prison, throwing garbage cans and table legs down the hallways. As respondent ran toward the telephone room, he noticed petitioner, Robert Dudley, and another guard standing in front of a door leading to the administrative control center of the prison. Neither Officer Dudley nor the correctional officer with him had a firearm, a baton, or a two-way radio. The prison arsenal, the offices of the prison superintendent, and the prison hospital are all accessible from the administration corridor.

When respondent approached the door to the administration area with the armed mob directly behind him, Officer Dudley and the other corrections officer entered the administration corridor and secured the door from the other side. Officer Dudley refused

Page 489 U.S. 1034 , 1035

to open the door to the administration corridor, despite the entreaties of respondent. Respondent then ran down another corridor and jumped over the counter of the telephone room and cried for help. The correctional officers in the telephone room, and one inmate present there, immediately removed themselves to positions of safety. At this point the angry mob caught up with respondent and beat him severely.

Respondent brought this action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against petitioner and other corrections officials, alleging that the failure to aid him during the disturbance constituted a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The case was tried to a jury before a Magistrate. Officer Dudley testified that he did not open the administration door because he never had the chance to, but indicated that he would not have done so in any event, given the fact that the prison arsenal and the superintendent's office lay on the other side. As he put it at trial, "[T] here is no way you are to allow inmates to go up into that area, especially in that type of situation." Pet. for Cert. 5. In addition, there was expert testimony at trial that Officer Dudley had followed proper procedure in securing the administration corridor door. At the close of the evidence, petitioner asked for an instruction to the jury that his conduct must have been "malicious and sadistic" to support Eighth Amendment liability under this Court's decision in Whitley v. Albers, supra. The trial court rejected petitioner's proposed instruction and instead delivered a "deliberate indifference" charge. The jury returned a verdict against Officer Dudley in the amount of $26,000 for alleged violations of respondent's Eighth Amendment rights.

The Magistrate subsequently granted petitioner's motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The Magistrate found this case " akin" to the situation presented in Whitley, and emphasized that " 'prison administrators . . . should be accorded wide ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security.' " App. to Pet. for Cert. 5b, quoting Whitley, supra, at 321-322, 106 S. t., at 1085 (citation omitted). The Magistrate cited three factors which justified the entry of judgment for petitioner. First, "there was a serious threat to prison security at the time Stubbs sought Dudley's protection." App. to Pet. for Cert. 7b. Second, "Dudley acted without ill will or malice"; and third, "prior to the attack upon [489 U.S. 1034 , 1036]

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