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Minneci v. Pollard

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: January 10, 2012
Case #: 10-1104
Breyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Scalia concurred, joined by Justice Thomas. Justice Ginsberg dissented.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-1104.pdf

Constitutional Law: Where state tort law remedies provide sufficient deterrence and compensation, an Eighth Amendment Bivens action will not be implied against employees of a privately operated federal prison.

Respondent Pollard was a prisoner at a federal facility in California that was operated by a private company. Pollard claimed that a number of employees at the prison deprived him of adequate medical care and thereby violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual” punishment.

The Court distinguished this case from Carlson because while a prisoner ordinarily cannot assert a state law claim against a federal employee, state tort claims generally can be brought against enployees of a private firm. State remedies are sufficient and no Eighth Amendment Bivens action is available where state tort law remedies provide sufficient incentives for potential defendants to comply with the Eigth Amendment, and also provide roughly similar compensation to victims.

The Supreme Court held that a Bivens remedy is not available, and a federal prisoner must seek a remedy under state tort law, where the prisoner seeks damages for an alleged Eighth Amendment violation from privately employed personnel working at a privately operated federal prison and the conduct complained of typically falls within the scope of traditional tort law.