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Gaut v. Sunn

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
Feb 20, 1987
810 F.2d 923 (9th Cir. 1987)

Summary

holding that threats alone do not violate the Eighth Amendment

Summary of this case from Babcock v. Clarke

Opinion

No. 83-2320.

Argued August 6, 1984. Submitted April 8, 1986.

Decided February 20, 1987.

Christopher Laurence Chamness, Claremont, California, for plaintiff-appellant.

James H. Danneberg, Deputy Atty. Gen., Honolulu, Hawaii, for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii.

Before JAMES R. BROWNING, Chief Judge, JOSEPH T. SNEED and CHARLES E. WIGGINS, Circuit Judges.

Judge Ben C. Duniway, a member of the original panel, died pending the disposition of a Petition for Rehearing and a Suggestion for a Rehearing En Banc. Judge Wiggins was appointed in his place, pursuant to General Order 3.2(g).


Gaut, a Hawaii state prisoner appeals from the dismissal of his second amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

Gaut brought an action against state prison guards under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982) for deprivation of liberty without due process of law through beatings allegedly inflicted upon him by the guards, and for denial of access to the courts through threats allegedly made by the guards. Gaut also alleged cruel and unusual punishment, a denial of medical care subsequent to the beatings, and vicarious liability on the part of prison administrators. Gaut has failed to argue that the dismissal of these latter causes of action was error and we do not address them.

I

Prison beatings which "shock the conscience" are actionable under section 1983. Meredith v. Arizona, 523 F.2d 481, 483 (9th Cir. 1975). In Meredith we quoted and adopted the following standard from Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (2d Cir. 1973):

In determining whether the constitutional line has been crossed, a court must look to such factors as the need for the application of force, the relationship between the need and the amount of force that was used, the extent of injury inflicted, and whether force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.

We take the allegations of Gaut's second amended complaint as true. North Star International v. Arizona Corporation Commission, 720 F.2d 578, 580 (9th Cir. 1983). Gaut alleges he was severely beaten, kicked, choked, and thrown against a wall by several guards when he shuffled his feet during a prison "shakedown," and was beaten again while handcuffed after he was taken to a holding unit. The complaint alleges the type of intentional, unjustified, unprovoked, and brutal conduct we have found to constitute a section 1983 claim in previous cases. See Rutherford v. City of Berkeley, 780 F.2d 1444, 1446-47 (9th Cir. 1986); Meredith, 523 F.2d at 484; Gregory v. Thompson, 500 F.2d 59, 61-62 (9th Cir. 1974); Allison v. Wilson, 434 F.2d 646, 647 (9th Cir. 1970) (per curiam); Allison v. California Adult Authority, 419 F.2d 822, 823 (9th Cir. 1969); Wiltsie v. California Department of Corrections, 406 F.2d 515, 516-17 (9th Cir. 1968).

The dismissal of Gaut's causes of action based upon the physical beatings he allegedly sustained must therefore be reversed.

II

Gaut also alleged he was "threatened with bodily harm" by the defendants "to convince him to refrain from pursuing legal redress" for the beatings. This allegation fails to state a cause of action under section 1983.

A mere threat may not state a cause of action under Hawaii law and it trivializes the eighth amendment to believe a threat constitutes a constitutional wrong. The fact that the complaint alleges the threat to be for the purpose of denying Gaut access to the courts does not compel a contrary result. The Supreme Court has recognized access to the courts to be constitutionally protected. Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 97 S.Ct. 1491, 52 L.Ed.2d 72 (1977). Here, however, we have a mere naked threat.

See Hawaii Rev.Stat. § 707-715 commentary (1976). It is also doubtful that a mere threat of bodily harm accounts to the misdemeanor of "terroristic threatening," the likely source of a civil tort, that is proscribed in Hawaii Rev.Stat. § 707-715 (Supp. 1982) (requiring psychological trauma to recover for the intentional infliction of such injury (quoting Hawaii Rev.Stat. § 707-725 commentary (1976)).

We find no case that squarely holds a threat to do an act prohibited by the Constitution is equivalent to doing the act itself. Under the circumstances of this case, we are not prepared to create an exception to this pattern.

The judgment dismissing the count based upon the threat to Gaut is AFFIRMED.


Summaries of

Gaut v. Sunn

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
Feb 20, 1987
810 F.2d 923 (9th Cir. 1987)

holding that threats alone do not violate the Eighth Amendment

Summary of this case from Babcock v. Clarke

holding a mere naked threat does not constitute a constitutional wrong

Summary of this case from Wilson v. Pima County Jail

holding that a prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

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holding that a prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

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holding that a "mere naked threat" cannot constitute an Eighth Amendment violation and that it "trivializes the eighth amendment to believe that a threat constitutes a constitutional wrong"

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holding that prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

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holding that a police officer "shouting . . . is not excessive force as a matter of law"

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holding that prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

Summary of this case from Freeman v. St. Clair

holding that prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

Summary of this case from Freeman v. St. Clair

holding that mere threat does not constitute a constitutional wrong

Summary of this case from Terrance Reaser v. Borders

holding that prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

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holding that prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

Summary of this case from Walker v. Ibarra

holding that the Eighth Amendment is trivialized by assertion that mere threat constitutes a constitutional wrong

Summary of this case from Berry v. Grier

holding prison guards' "naked threat" to inflict "bodily harm" if prisoner reported prior beating failed to state § 1983 claim; observing "no case [exists] that squarely holds a threat to do an act prohibited by the Constitution is equivalent to doing the act itself"

Summary of this case from Berman v. Dept. of Police

holding that prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

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holding that prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

Summary of this case from Ramos v. Echavarria

holding that prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

Summary of this case from Ragsdale v. Medrano

holding that mere verbal threats, even if issued to deter claimant from accessing courts, do not give rise to a First Amendment claim

Summary of this case from Evans v. Fox

holding that prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

Summary of this case from Custodio v. Idaho State Bd. of Corr.

holding that "it trivializes the eighth amendment to believe a threat constitutes a constitutional wrong."

Summary of this case from Hunter v. HazelWOOD

holding that a "mere naked threat" is insufficient because it "trivializes the eighth amendment to believe a threat constitutes a constitutional wrong"

Summary of this case from Haynes v. Czerniak

holding that threats to deter prisoner from "pursuing legal redress" is insufficient to state a claim under § 1983 unless the prisoner was actually deprived access to the court

Summary of this case from White v. Fauver

holding that prisoner's allegations of threats allegedly made by guards failed to state a cause of action

Summary of this case from Sivak v. State

finding that prisoner's allegation that he was threatened with bodily harm if he pursued legal redress for beatings did not state a Section 1983 claim

Summary of this case from Arrant v. Zambrano

finding Eighth Amendment trivialized by assertion that mere threat constitutes a constitutional wrong

Summary of this case from Berry v. Grier
Case details for

Gaut v. Sunn

Case Details

Full title:KENNETH GAUT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, v. FRANKLIN SUNN, DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL…

Court:United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

Date published: Feb 20, 1987

Citations

810 F.2d 923 (9th Cir. 1987)

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