From Casetext: Smarter Legal Research

Higgs v. Carver

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
Apr 1, 2002
286 F.3d 437 (7th Cir. 2002)

Summary

holding that "there are no special pleading rules for prisoner civil rights cases"

Summary of this case from Randall v. Scott

Opinion

No. 01-1559.

Submitted February 21, 2002.

Decided April 1, 2002.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, David F. Hamilton, J.

James C. Higgs, Correctional Industrial Complex, Pendleton, IN, for plaintiff-appellant.

Samual A. Day, Kightlinger Gray, New Albany, IN, for defendant-appellee.

Before POSNER, EASTERBROOK, and RIPPLE, Circuit Judges.


This prisoner's civil rights suit raises a multitude of claims, but only two have sufficient merit to warrant discussion.

While a pretrial detainee in an Indiana county jail, Higgs got into a fight with another inmate and was placed in "lockdown segregation," a form of solitary confinement. He filed a grievance with the jail authorities, who ten days after he had been placed in lockdown segregation wrote him that he had been "placed on lockdown for repeatedly threatening and harassing other inmates and has continued on lockdown as he has repeatedly cussed and attempted to intimidate correction staff." His request for a hearing was denied, and he spent a total of 34 days in segregation before being allowed to rejoin the general jail population.

A pretrial detainee cannot be placed in segregation as a punishment for a disciplinary infraction without notice and an opportunity to be heard; due process requires no less. Rapier v. Harris, 172 F.3d 999, 1004-05 (7th Cir. 1999); Mitchell v. Dupnik, 75 F.3d 517, 524-25 (9th Cir. 1996). But no process is required if he is placed in segregation not as punishment but for managerial reasons. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535-41, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979); Rapier v. Harris, supra, 172 F.3d at 1002-06; Fuentes v. Wagner, 206 F.3d 335, 341-42 (3d Cir. 2000). Suppose for example that the only vacant cell left in the jail was in the segregation ward when a new prisoner arrived; placing him in that cell would be a managerial decision. Or suppose, coming a little closer to this case, that a prisoner was placed under particularly restrictive conditions of confinement at the jail because he was considered a suicide risk. Again, no hearing would be required. Myers v. County of Lake, 30 F.3d 847, 850 (7th Cir. 1994); Anderson v. County of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1314-15 (9th Cir. 1995). Ditto if he was placed in segregation to protect himself from other prisoners, or to protect jail staff from his violent propensities. Bell v. Wolfish, supra, 441 U.S. at 547, 99 S.Ct. 1861; Anderson v. County of Kern, supra, 45 F.3d at 1314; Olgin v. Darnell, 664 F.2d 107, 109 (5th Cir. 1981). As long as the purpose was indeed a preventive rather than a punitive one, he would not be entitled to notice and a hearing. Indeed a jail's failure to take steps to prevent harm to the prisoner or to other prisoners might give rise to meritorious suits against the jail. See, e.g., Swofford v. Mandrell, 969 F.2d 547, 549-50 (7th Cir. 1992). In none of these cases would a hearing be practicable, or even useful, because managerial decisions do not have the character of rulings applying legal standards to facts, the kind of rulings for which adjudicative hearings are designed.

Unfortunately we cannot determine from the record whether Higgs was placed in lockdown segregation for preventive purposes or as punishment. The statement of the jail authorities that we quoted is the only evidence, apart from the unexplained length of his detention; there is no evidence on why 34 days rather than 24 or 44. And the statement is ambiguous; its wording is equally consistent with a punitive purpose and with a preventive purpose. The case must be remanded for further proceedings on this question.

And on another as well, the plaintiff's claim that he has been a victim of retaliation. In his amended complaint, Higgs charged that after bringing this suit he was again placed in lockdown segregation, for 11 days, to "punish" him for filing the suit. The district court dismissed this part of the complaint for failure to state a claim, on the ground that the allegation of retaliation was "conclusory" and that Higgs had "not alleged a chronology of events from which retaliation can be inferred." But as the Supreme Court and this court have emphasized, there are no special pleading rules for prisoner civil rights cases. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506, ___-___, 122 S.Ct. 992, 998-99, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002); Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168, 113 S.Ct. 1160, 122 L.Ed.2d 517 (1993); Kyle v. Morton High School, 144 F.3d 448, 455 (7th Cir. 1998) (per curiam). A complaint that complies with the federal rules of civil procedure cannot be dismissed on the ground that it is conclusory or fails to allege facts. The federal rules require (with irrelevant exceptions) only that the complaint state a claim, not that it plead the facts that if true would establish (subject to any defenses) that the claim was valid. Nance v. Vieregge, 147 F.3d 589, 590-91 (7th Cir. 1998). All that need be specified is the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer. Beanstalk Group, Inc. v. AM General Corp., 283 F.3d 856, 863 (7th Cir. 2002). "All that's required to state a claim in a complaint filed in a federal court is a short statement, in plain (that is, ordinary, nonlegalistic) English, of the legal claim. . . . The courts keep reminding plaintiffs that they don't have to file long complaints, don't have to plead facts, don't have to plead legal theories." Kirksey v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 1039, 1041 (7th Cir. 1999). Had Higgs merely alleged that the defendants had retaliated against him for filing a suit, without identifying the suit or the act or acts claimed to have constituted retaliation, the complaint would be insufficient, cf. Muick v. Glenayre Electronics, 280 F.3d 741, 743 (7th Cir. 2002), because the defendants would not have known how to respond. But Higgs specified both the suit and the act of retaliation (namely placing him in lockdown segregation for 11 days), and this specification was enough to enable the defendants to file an answer. See, e.g., Johnson v. Stovall, 233 F.3d 486, 489 (7th Cir. 2000). The dismissal for failure to state a claim was therefore premature.

In all but these two respects, the judgment is affirmed.

AFFIRMED IN PART, VACATED IN PART, AND REMANDED.


Summaries of

Higgs v. Carver

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
Apr 1, 2002
286 F.3d 437 (7th Cir. 2002)

holding that "there are no special pleading rules for prisoner civil rights cases"

Summary of this case from Randall v. Scott

holding that a "pretrial detainee cannot be placed in segregation as punishment for a disciplinary infraction without notice an opportunity to be heard; due process requires no less"

Summary of this case from Washington v. Byrd

holding no special pleading rules for prisoner civil rights cases

Summary of this case from Schowalter v. Ridge

finding that transferring pretrial detainee for "managerial reasons" negates due process requirements

Summary of this case from Williams v. Cook Cnty.

finding that transferring pretrial detainees for "managerial reasons" negates due process requirements

Summary of this case from Williams ex rel. Situated v. Cook Cnty.

reversing dismissal

Summary of this case from United States v. Purnell

reversing dismissal, at pleading stage, of ambiguous allegations that might be consistent with facts that support a claim

Summary of this case from Mazeika v. Architectural Speciality Products, Inc.

rejecting the idea of "special pleading rules for prisoner civil rights cases," but nonetheless requiring complaints to meet some measure of specificity

Summary of this case from Educadores Puertorriquenos v. Hernandez

allowing prisoner segregation as "a jail's failure to take steps to prevent harm to the prisoner or to other prisoners might give rise to meritorious suits against the jail"

Summary of this case from J.H. v. Williamson Cnty.

identifying no liberty interest in avoiding thirty-four-day administrative detention

Summary of this case from Williamson v. Stirling

interpreting the "short and plain statement" requirement of Rule 8 as requiring allegations of no more than "the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer"

Summary of this case from Lekas v. Briley

In Higgs, the district court dismissed a prisoner's claims of retaliation because the complaint failed to allege a chronology of events from which retaliation could be inferred.

Summary of this case from Walker v. Thompson

In Higgs, we rejected a district court's insistence on the allegation of a "chronology of events" because that requirement, as understood and applied by the district court in that case, was at odds with the "plain statement" standard of pleading required by the rules.

Summary of this case from Walker v. Thompson

describing requirements for a retaliation claim

Summary of this case from Gakuba v. Rains

stating that no process is required when a prisoner is "placed in segregation to protect himself from other prisoners"

Summary of this case from Session v. Clements

In Higgs, a pretrial detained got into a fight with another inmate and was placed in segregation without a hearing for 34 days before being allowed to join the general jail population.

Summary of this case from Torres v. Milwaukee Cnty. Jail

In Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 438 (7th Cir. 2002), the Seventh Circuit stated that "[a] pretrial detainee cannot be placed in segregation as a punishment for a disciplinary infraction without notice and an opportunity to be heard; due process requires no less."

Summary of this case from Brown v. McAdory

identifying the protected activity and the act of retaliation is all that is necessary to state a claim of improper retaliation

Summary of this case from Randle v. Corbit

explaining that placement of a pretrial detainee in disciplinary segregation is not "punishment" if it is done for legitimate institutional concerns such as preventing suicide, housing needs, or reducing danger to others

Summary of this case from Washington v. Byrd

naming the protected activity and the act of retaliation is all that is necessary to state a claim

Summary of this case from Garrett v. Schwatz

naming the protected activity and the act of retaliation is all that is necessary to state a claim of improper retaliation

Summary of this case from Taylor v. Guthurter

noting that a complaint for retaliation in violation of the First Amendment that alleged only that a prisoner was retaliated against by prison officials for filing a lawsuit, but which failed to identify the suit or the acts claimed to have constituted retaliation, would be inadequate under federal notice pleading standards

Summary of this case from Wheeler v. Pension Value Plan for Employees of Boeing

In Higgs, the court gave examples of non-punitive, managerial reasons that would justify placing a detainee in segregation: when the detainee requires protection from other prisoners or the staff requires protection from the detainee's violent propensities; when a detainee is considered a suicide risk, or; when a cell in segregation is the only one vacant when a detainee arrives at the jail.

Summary of this case from Leshore v. Sabanski

stating that no due process is required if detainee is placed in segregation "not as punishment but for managerial reasons"

Summary of this case from Leshore v. Sabanski

interpreting Swierkiewicz to mean that " complaint that complies with the federal rules of civil procedure cannot be dismissed on the ground that it is conclusory or fails to allege facts"

Summary of this case from Van Myers v. Dallas Independent School District
Case details for

Higgs v. Carver

Case Details

Full title:James Carl HIGGS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. William E. CARVER and James M…

Court:United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

Date published: Apr 1, 2002

Citations

286 F.3d 437 (7th Cir. 2002)

Citing Cases

Riley v. Vilsack

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit took this directive seriously, reminding district courts in many…

Johnson v. Kingston

Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) requires a complaint to state only those "bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant…