Hope v. Pelzer

Popular Name: 
Hitching Post Damages Case
Case Number: 
Court where filed: 
United States Supreme Court
Date Filed: 
Won in US Supreme Court
Larry Hope, an Alabama prisoner who was handcuffed to a metal hitching post
Correctional officers Mark Pelzer, others responsible for implementing the hitching post policy
Case Related Items 

High Court justice for 'hitching post' inmate
The Court said the Eighth Amendment violation was "obvious," and that a "reasonable officer would have known that using a hitching post as Hope alleged was unlawful." Hope's skin was burned. His wrists were cut. The muscles in his arms and legs ached and he was taunted when he asked for water.

The Supreme Court ruled that the guards subjected Hope to "a substantial risk of physical harm, unnecessary pain, unnecessary exposure to the sun, prolonged thirst and taunting, and a deprivation of bathroom breaks that created a risk of particular discomfort and humiliation."

Hope sued the guards for monetary damages in 1995. Claiming qualified immunity, the guards won summary judgment from the District Court and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court, however, reversed the Eleventh Circuit, stripping the guards of their immunity. The far-reaching decision cleared the way for the damages claim to proceed.

Center attorneys served as co-counsel on the Supreme Court petition, along with lead attorney Craig Jones from Atlanta. Hope was also a plaintiff in the Center's class action lawsuit Austin v. James, a case ending the use of the hitching post and chain gangs in Alabama.



Craig T. Jones
James A. Mendelsohn

Date(s) of Disposition: 

03/24/2000: Summary Judgment for the defendants
02/02/2001: Eleventh Circuit affirmed qualified immunity judgment for defendants (240 F. 3d 975)
06/27/2002: Supreme Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and District Court rulings granting qualified immunity for the defendants. Case remanded to District Court (536 U.S. 730)