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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice


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OER for LAW 401

Problems of Constitutional Development

Continuation. . .





Treatment of Prisoners

  • Estelle v. Gamble429 U.S. 97 (1976)

    • Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States established the standard of what a prisoner must plead in order to claim a violation of Eighth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, the Court held that a prisoner must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. Though the Court credited Gamble's complaint that doctors had failed to provide appropriate care, it held that medical malpractice did not rise to the level of "cruel and unusual punishment" simply because the victim is a prisoner.

    • Held: Deliberate indifference by prison personnel to a prisoner's serious illness or injury constitutes cruel and unusual punishment contravening the Eighth Amendment. Here, however, respondent's claims against Gray do not suggest such indifference, the allegations revealing that Gray and other medical personnel saw respondent on 17 occasions during a 3-month span and treated his injury and other problems. The failure to perform an X-ray or to use additional diagnostic techniques does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, but is, at most, medical malpractice cognizable in the state courts. The question whether respondent has stated a constitutional claim against the other petitioners, the Director of the Department of Corrections and the warden of the prison, was not separately evaluated by the Court of Appeals, and should be considered on remand. 

  • Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1 (1992)

    • The use of excessive physical force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment even though the inmate does not suffer serious injury. Whenever prison officials stand accused of using excessive physical force constituting "the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" violative of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, the core judicial inquiry is that set out in Whitley v. Albers, 475 U. S. 312, 320-321: whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm. Extending Whitley's application of the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" standard to all allegations of force, whether the prison disturbance is a riot or a lesser disruption, works no innovation. See, e. g., Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, cert. denied, 414 U. S. 1033. 

    • Petitioner Hudson, a Louisiana prison inmate, testified that minor bruises, facial swelling, loosened teeth, and a cracked dental plate he had suffered resulted from a beating by respondent prison guards McMillian and Woods while he was handcuffed and shackled following an argument with McMillian, and that respondent Mezo, a supervisor on duty, watched the beating but merely told the officers "not to have too much fun." The Magistrate trying Hudson's District Court suit under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 found that the officers used force when there was no need to do so and that Mezo expressly condoned their actions, ruled that respondents had violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments, and awarded Hudson damages. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding, inter alia, that inmates alleging use of excessive force in violation of the Amendment must prove "significant injury" and that Hudson could not prevail because his injuries were "minor" and required no medical attention.

Capital Punishment
Capital Punishment and Juveniles

  • Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)

    • Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), was a landmark decision in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that it is unconstitutional to impose capital punishment for crimes committed while under the age of 18. The 5–4 decision overruled Stanford v. Kentucky, in which the court had upheld execution of offenders at or above age 16, and overturned statutes in 25 states.

    • At age 17, respondent Simmons planned and committed a capital murder. After he had turned 18, he was sentenced to death. His direct appeal and subsequent petitions for state and federal post-conviction relief were rejected. This Court then held, in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U. S. 304, that the Eighth Amendment, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the execution of a mentally retarded person. Simmons filed a new petition for state post-conviction relief, arguing that Atkins’ reasoning established that the Constitution prohibits the execution of a juvenile who was under 18 when he committed his crime. The Missouri Supreme Court agreed and set aside Simmons’ death sentence in favor of life imprisonment without eligibility for release. It held that, although Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U. S. 361, rejected the proposition that the Constitution bars capital punishment for juvenile offenders younger than 18, a national consensus has developed against the execution of those offenders since Stanford.

    • Held: The Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed. Pp. 6–25.

The Articles of Confederation

The Federalist No. 10


The Constitution

Presidents of the United States

  1. George Washington

  2. John Adams

  3. Thomas Jefferson

  4. James Madison

  5. James Monroe

  6. John Quincy Adams

  7. Andrew Jackson

  8. Martin Van Buren

  9. William Henry Harrison

  10. John Tyler

  11. James K. Polk

  12. Zachary Taylor

  13. Millard Fillmore

  14. Franklin Pierce

  15. James Buchanan

  16. Abraham Lincoln

  17. Andrew Johnson

  18. Ulysses S. Grant

  19. Rutherford B. Hayes

  20. James Garfield

  21. Chester A. Arthur

  22. Grover Cleveland

  23. Benjamin Harrison

  24. Grover Cleveland

  25. William McKinley

  26. Theodore Roosevelt

  27. William Howard Taft

  28. Woodrow Wilson

  29. Warren G. Harding

  30. Calvin Coolidge

  31. Herbert Hoover

  32. Franklin D. Roosevelt

  33. Harry S. Truman

  34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

  35. John F. Kennedy

  36. Lyndon B. Johnson

  37. Richard M. Nixon

  38. Gerald R. Ford

  39. James Carter

  40. Ronald Reagan

  41. George H. W. Bush

  42. William J. Clinton

  43. George W. Bush

  44. Barack Obama

  45. Donald J. Trump


Chief Justices of the Supreme Court