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Kingsley v. Hendrickson, No. 14-6368, cert. granted 1/16/15

Question presented:

Whether the requirements of a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 excessive force claim brought by a plaintiff who was a pretrial detainee at the time of the incident are satisfied by a showing that the state actor deliberately used force against the pretrial detainee and the use of force was objectively unreasonable.

Lower court opinion: Kingsley v. Hendrickson, Case No. 12-3639, 744 F.3d 443 (7th Cir. 2014)

Although public defenders may not provide legal representation on “excessive force” claims, this case may prompt questions from our clients–especially since it arises from Wisconsin. Kingsely was held as a pre-trial detainee in the Monroe County jail.  Officers repeatedly asked him to remove a piece of paper stuck to the light in his cell. When he did not comply, they forcibly transferred him to another cell, and, in the process, roughed him up and tased him for 5 seconds. Kingsley filed a pro se complaint claiming that the guards used excessive force during the incident. Turns out the federal circuit courts do not agree on the elements of an excessive force claim brought by a pre-trial detainee.  Must the detainee show that the state actor used objectively unreasonable force? Or must he show that the state actor had subjective intent to violate his constitutional rights?  If the latter, then what level of subjective intent must he show–reckless, wanton, sadistic? Stay tuned for SCOTUS’s answers to these questions.

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