MINNECI v. POLLARD
Richard Lee Pollard, an inmate at a federal prison run by the private company GEO Group, slipped on a cart left in a doorway and injured both elbows. As GEO employees were preparing to transport him to an outside orthopedic clinic, he said they made him wear a jumpsuit and a "black box" wrist restraint, despite his claim that both would cause him excruciating pain. Pollard sued GEO and its employees for allegedly violating his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed Pollard's suit. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, concluding that the Supreme Court recognized an implied cause of action for injury caused by "a federal agent acting under his authority."
Can employees of private prison operators be sued for violating the constitutional rights of inmates?
Legal provision: Eighth Amendment
No. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the opinion of the Supreme Court. Breyer rejected Pollard's arguments and held that a prisoner can not assert an Eighth Amendment claim for damages against private prison employees.
Justice Antonin Scalia filed a concurring opinion which Justice Clarence Thomas joined. In his concurring opinion the justice emphasized that he believed that the case law in Bivens, creating a cause of action under the Eighth Amendment, should be limited.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion. She stated that she would not deny Pollard relief merely for the fact that he was placed in a privately operated prison rather than a federal or state operated facility.
NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
MARGARET MINNECI, et al., PETITIONERS v. RICHARD LEE POLLARD et al.
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
[January 10, 2012]
Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question is whether we can imply the existence of an Eighth Amendment-based damages action (a Bivens action) against employees of a privately operated federal prison. See generally Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388, 389 (1971) (“[V]iolation of [the Fourth Amendment] by a federal agent . . . gives rise to a cause of action for damages” against a Federal Government employee). Because we believe that in the circumstances present here state tort law authorizes adequate alternative damages actions—actions that provide both significant deterrence and compensation—we cannot do so. See Wilkie v. Robbins, 551 U. S. 537, 550 (2007) (no Bivens action where “alternative, existing” processes provide adequate protection).I
Richard Lee Pollard was a prisoner at a federal facility operated by a private company, the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation. In 2002 he filed a pro se complaint in federal court against several Wackenhut employees, who (now) include a security officer, a food-services supervisor, and several members of the medical staff. As the Federal Magistrate Judge interpreted Pollard’s complaint, he claimed that these employees had deprived him of adequate medical care, had thereby violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual” punishment, and had caused him injury. He sought damages.
Pollard said that a year earlier he had slipped on a cart left in the doorway of the prison’s butcher shop. The prison medical staff took x rays, thought he might have fractured both elbows, brought him to an outside clinic for further orthopedic evaluation, and subsequently arranged for surgery. In particular, Pollard claimed:
(1) Despite his having told a prison guard that he could not extend his arm, the guard forced him to put on a jumpsuit (to travel to the outside clinic), causing him “the most excruciating pain,” App. 32;
(2) During several visits to the outside clinic, prison guards made Pollard wear arm restraints that were connected in a way that caused him continued pain;
(3) Prison medical (and other) personnel failed to follow the outside clinic’s instructions to put Pollard’s left elbow in a posterior splint, failed to provide necessary physical therapy, and failed to conduct necessary studies, including nerve conduction studies;
(4) At times when Pollard’s arms were in casts or similarly disabled, prison officials failed to make alternative arrangements for him to receive meals, with the result that (to avoid “being humiliated” in the general food service area, id., at 35) Pollard had to auction off personal items to obtain funds to buy food at the commissary;
(5) Prison officials deprived him of basic hygienic care to the point where he could not bathe for two weeks;
(6) Prison medical staff provided him with insufficient medicine, to the point where he was in pain and could not sleep; and
(7) Prison officials forced him to return to work before his injuries had healed.
After concluding that the Eighth Amendment did not provide for a Bivens action against a privately managed prison’s personnel, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the District Court dismiss Pollard’s complaint. The District Court did so. But on appeal the Ninth Circuit found that the Eighth Amendment provided Pollard with a Bivens action, and it reversed the District Court. Pollard v. The GEO Group, Inc., 607 F. 3d 583, 603, as amended, 629 F. 3d 843, 868 (CA9 2010).
The defendants sought certiorari. And, in light of a split among the Courts of Appeals, we granted the petition. Compare ibid. (finding an Eighth Amendment Bivens action where prisoner sues employees of a privately operated federal prison), with, e.g., Alba v. Montford, 517 F. 3d 1249, 1254–1256 (CA11 2008) (no Bivens action available), and Holly v. Scott, 434 F. 3d 287, 288 (CA4 2006) (same).II
Recently, in Wilkie v. Robbins, supra, we rejected a claim that the Fifth Amendment impliedly authorized a Bivens action that would permit landowners to obtain damages from government officials who unconstitutionally interfere with their exercise of property rights. After reviewing the Court’s earlier Bivens cases, the Court stated:
“[T]he decision whether to recognize a Bivens remedy may require two steps. In the first place, there is the question whether any alternative, existing process for protecting the [constitutionally recognized] interest amounts to a convincing reason for the Judicial Branch to refrain from providing a new and freestanding remedy in damages. . . . But even in the absence of an alternative, a Bivens remedy is a subject of judgment: ‘the federal courts must make the kind of remedial determination that is appropriate for a common-law tribunal, paying particular heed, however, to any special factors counselling hesitation before authorizing a new kind of federal litigation.’ ” 551 U. S., at 550 (quoting Bush v. Lucas, 462 U. S. 367, 378 (1983) ).
These standards seek to reflect and to reconcile the Court’s reasoning set forth in earlier cases. In Bivens itself the Court held that the Fourth Amendment implicitly authorized a court to order federal agents to pay damages to a person injured by the agents’ violation of the Amendment’s constitutional strictures. 403 U. S., at 389. The Court noted that “ ‘where federally protected rights have been invaded,’ ”courts can “ ‘adjust their remedies so as to grant the necessary relief.’ ” Id., at 392 (quoting Bell v. Hood, 327 U. S. 678, 684 (1946) ). See also Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U. S. 61, 66 (2001) (“authority to imply a new constitutional tort” anchored within general “ ‘arising under’ ” jurisdiction). It pointed out that the Fourth Amendment prohibited, among other things, conduct that state law might permit (such as the conduct at issue in that very case). Bivens, 403 U. S., at 392–393. It added that the interests protected on the one hand by state “trespass” and “invasion of privacy” laws and on the other hand by the Fourth Amendment’s guarantees “may be inconsistent or even hostile.” Id., at 394. It stated that “[h]istorically, damages have been regarded as the ordinary remedy for an invasion of personal interests in liberty.” Id., at 395. And it found “no special factors counselling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress.” Id., at 396.
In Davis v. Passman, 442 U. S. 228 (1979) , the Court considered a former congressional employee’s claim for damages suffered as a result of her employer’s unconstitutional discrimination based on gender. The Court found a damages action implicit in the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Id., at 248–249. In doing so, the Court emphasized the unavailability of “other alternative forms of judicial relief.” Id., at 245. And the Court noted that there was “no evidence” that Congress (or the Constitution) intended to foreclose such a remedy. Id., at 247.
In Carlson v. Green, 446 U. S. 14 (1980) , the Court considered a claim for damages brought by the estate of a federal prisoner who (the estate said) had died as the result of government officials’ “deliberat[e] indifferen[ce]” to his medical needs—indifference that violated the Eighth Amendment. Id., at 16, n. 1, 17 (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U. S. 97 (1976) ). The Court implied an action for damages from the Eighth Amendment. 446 U. S., at 17–18. It noted that state law offered the particular plaintiff no meaningful damages remedy. Id., at 17, n. 4. Although the estate might have brought a damages claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the defendant in any such lawsuit was the employer, namely the United States, not the individual officers who had committed the violation. Id., at 21. A damages remedy against an individual officer, the Court added, would prove a more effective deterrent. Ibid. And, rather than leave compensation to the “vagaries” of state tort law, a federal Bivens action would provide “uniform rules.” 446 U. S., at 23.
Since Carlson, the Court has had to decide in several different instances whether to imply a Bivens action. And in each instance it has decided against the existence of such an action. These instances include:
(1) A federal employee’s claim that his federal employer dismissed him in violation of the First Amendment, Bush, supra, at 386–388 (congressionally created federal civil service procedures provide meaningful redress);
(2) A claim by military personnel that military superiors violated various constitutional provisions, Chappell v. Wallace, 462 U. S. 296 –300 (1983) (special factors related to the military counsel against implying a Bivens action), see also United States v. Stanley, 483 U. S. 669 –684 (1987) (similar);
(3) A claim by recipients of Social Security disability benefits that benefits had been denied in violation of the Fifth Amendment, Schweiker v. Chilicky, 487 U. S. 412, 414, 425 (1988) (elaborate administrative scheme provides meaningful alternative remedy);
(4) A former bank employee’s suit against a federal banking agency, claiming that he lost his job due to agency action that violated the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U. S. 471 –486 (1994) (no Bivens actions against government agencies rather than particular individuals who act unconstitutionally);
(5) A prisoner’s Eighth Amendment-based suit against a private corporation that managed a federal prison, Ma-lesko, 534 U. S., at 70–73 (to permit suit against the employer-corporation would risk skewing relevant incentives; at the same time, the ability of a prisoner to bring state tort law damages action against private individual defendants means that the prisoner does not “lack effective remedies,” id., at 72).
Although the Court, in reaching its decisions, has not always similarly emphasized the same aspects of the cases, Wilkie fairly summarizes the basic considerations that underlie those decisions. 551 U. S., at 550. We consequently apply its approach here. And we conclude that Pollard cannot assert a Bivens claim.
That is primarily because Pollard’s Eighth Amendment claim focuses upon a kind of conduct that typically falls within the scope of traditional state tort law. And in the case of a privately employed defendant, state tort law provides an “alternative, existing process” capable of protecting the constitutional interests at stake. 551 U. S., at 550. The existence of that alternative here constitutes a “convincing reason for the Judicial Branch to refrain from providing a new and freestanding remedy in damages.” Ibid. Our reasoning is best understood if we set forth and explain why we reject Pollard’s arguments to the contrary.III
Pollard (together with supporting amici) asks us to imply a Bivens action for four basic reasons—none of which we find convincing. First, Pollard argues that this Court has already decided in Carlson that a federal prisoner may bring an Eighth Amendment-based Bivens action against prison personnel; and we need do no more than simply apply Carlson’s holding here. Carlson, however, was a case in which a federal prisoner sought damages from personnel employed by the government, not personnel employed by a private firm. 446 U. S., at 25. And for present purposes that fact—of employment status—makes a critical difference.
For one thing, the potential existence of an adequate “alternative, existing process” differs dramatically in the two sets of cases. Prisoners ordinarily cannot bring state-law tort actions against employees of the Federal Government. See 28 U. S. C. §§2671, 2679(b)(1) (Westfall Act) (substituting United States as defendant in tort action against federal employee); Osborn v. Haley, 549 U. S. 225, 238, 241 (2007) (Westfall Act immunizes federal employee through removal and substitution of United States as defendant). But prisoners ordinarily can bring state-law tort actions against employees of a private firm. Infra, at 9–10.
For another thing, the Court specifically rejected Justice Stevens’ somewhat similar suggestion in his dissenting opinion in Malesko, namely that a prisoner’s suit against a private prison-management firm should fall within Carlson’s earlier holding because such a firm, like a federal employee, is a “federal agent.” Compare Malesko, 534 U. S., at 70, and n. 4 (majority opinion), with id., at 76–77, 82 (dissenting opinion). In rejecting the dissent’s suggestion, the Court explained that the context in Malesko was “fundamentally different” from the contexts at issue in earlier cases, including Carlson. 534 U. S., at 70. That difference, the Court said, reflected in part the nature of the defendant, i.e., a corporate employer rather than an individual employee, ibid., and in part reflected the existence of alternative “effective” state tort remedies, id., at 72–73. This last-mentioned factor makes it difficult to square Pollard’s argument with Malesko’s reasoning.
Second, Pollard argues that, because of the “vagaries” of state tort law, Carlson, 446 U. S., at 23, we should consider only whether federal law provides adequate alternative remedies. See id., at 18–19, 23 (considering adequacy of federal remedies); see also, e.g., Schweiker, supra, at 423 (similar); Bush, 462 U. S., at 378 (similar). But cf. Carlson, supra, at 24 (“ ‘[R]elevant Indiana statute would not permit survival of the [state tort] claim’ ”). This argument flounders, however, on the fact that the Court rejected it in Malesko. Compare 534 U. S., at 72–73 (majority opinion), with id., at 79–80 (Stevens, J., dissenting) (making similar suggestion). State tort law, after all, can help to deter constitutional violations as well as to provide compensation to a violation’s victim. And it is consequently unsurprising that several cases have considered the adequacy or inadequacy of state-law remedies when determining whether to imply a Bivens remedy. See, e.g., Bivens, 403 U. S., at 394 (state tort law “inconsistent or even hostile” to Fourth Amendment); Davis, 442 U. S., at 245, n. 23 (noting no state-law remedy available); cf. Malesko, supra, at 70 (noting that the Court has implied Bivens action only where any alternative remedy against individual officers was “nonexistent” or where plaintiff “lacked any alternative remedy” at all).
Third, Pollard argues that state tort law does not provide remedies adequate to protect the constitutional interests at issue here. Pollard’s claim, however, is a claim for physical or related emotional harm suffered as a result of aggravated instances of the kind of conduct that state tort law typically forbids. That claim arose in California, where state tort law provides for ordinary negligence actions, for actions based upon “want of ordinary care or skill,” for actions for “negligent failure to diagnose or treat,” and for actions based upon the failure of one with a custodial duty to care for another to protect that other from “ ‘unreasonable risk of physical harm.’ ” See Cal. Civ. Code Ann. §§1714(a), 1714.8(a) (West 2009 and Supp. 2012); Giraldo v. California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 168 Cal. App. 4th 231, 248, 85 Cal. Rptr. 3d 371, 384 (2008) (quoting Haworth v. State, 60 Haw. 557, 562, 592 P. 2d 820, 824 (1979)). California courts have specifically applied this law to jailers, including private operators of prisons. Giraldo, supra, at 252, 85 Cal. Rptr. 3d, at 387 (“[J]ailers owe prisoners a duty of care to protect them from foreseeable harm”); see also Lawson v. Superior Ct., 180 Cal. App. 4th 1372, 1389–1390, 1397, 103 Cal. Rptr. 3d 834, 849–850, 855 (2010) (same).
Moreover, California’s tort law basically reflects general principles of tort law present, as far as we can tell, in the law of every State. See Restatement (Second) of Torts §§314A(4), 320 (1963–1964). We have found specific authority indicating that state law imposes general tort duties of reasonable care (including medical care) on prison employees in every one of the eight States where privately managed secure federal facilities are currently located. See Dept. of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisions, Weekly Population Report (Dec 22, 2011), http:// www.bop.gov/locations/weekly_report.jsp (listing States) (as visited Dec. 29, 2011, and available in Clerk of Court’s case file); Thomas v. Williams, 105 Ga. App. 321, 326, 124 S. E. 2d 409, 412–413 (1962) (In Georgia, “ ‘sheriff owes to a prisoner placed in his custody a duty to keep the prisoner safely and free from harm, to render him medical aid when necessary, and to treat him humanely and refrain from oppressing him’ ”); Giraldo, supra, at 248, 85 Cal. Rptr. 3d, at 384 (California, same); Farmer v. State ex rel. Russell, 224 Miss. 96, 105, 79 So. 2d 528, 531 (1955) (Mississippi, same); Doe v. Albuquerque, 96 N. M. 433, 438, 631 P. 2d 728, 733 (App. 1981) (New Mexico, same); Multiple Claimants v. North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Servs., 176 N. C. App. 278, 280, 626 S. E. 2d 666, 668 (2006) (North Carolina, same); Clemets v. Heston, 20 Ohio App. 3d 132, 135–136, 485 N. E. 2d 287, 291 (1985) (Ohio, same); Williams v. Syed, 782 A. 2d 1090, 1093–1094 (Pa. Commw. 2001) (Pennsylvania, same); Salazar v. Collins, 255 S. W. 3d 191, 198–200 (Tex. App. 2008) (Texas, same); see also Schellenger, 14 A. L. R. 2d 353, §2[a] (Later Case Service and Supp. 2011) (same). But cf. Miss. Code. Ann. §11–46–9(1)(m) (Supp. 2011) (statute forbidding such actions against State—though not private—employees); N. Y. Correc. Law Ann. §§24 (West 2003), 121 (2011 Cum. Supp.) (similar).
We note, as Pollard points out, that state tort law may sometimes prove less generous than would a Bivens action, say, by capping damages, see Cal. Civ. Code Ann. §3333.2(b) (West 1997), or by forbidding recovery for emotional suffering unconnected with physical harm, see 629 F. 3d, at 864, or by imposing procedural obstacles, say, initially requiring the use of expert administrative panels in medical malpractice cases, see, e.g., Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., Tit. 24, §2853, (Supp. 2010); Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 231, §60B (West 2010). But we cannot find in this fact sufficient basis to determine state law inadequate.
State-law remedies and a potential Bivens remedy need not be perfectly congruent. See Bush, supra, at 388 (administrative remedies adequate even though they “do not provide complete relief”). Indeed, federal law as well as state law contains limitations. Prisoners bringing federal lawsuits, for example, ordinarily may not seek damages for mental or emotional injury unconnected with physical injury. See 42 U. S. C. §1997e(e). And Bivens actions, even if more generous to plaintiffs in some respects, may be less generous in others. For example, to show an Eighth Amendment violation a prisoner must typically show that a defendant acted, not just negligently, but with “deliberate indifference.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U. S. 825, 834 (1994) . And a Bivens plaintiff, unlike a state tort law plaintiff, normally could not apply principles of respondeat superior and thereby obtain recovery from a defendant’s potentially deep-pocketed employer. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U. S. 662, 676 (2009) .
Rather, in principle, the question is whether, in general, state tort law remedies provide roughly similar incentives for potential defendants to comply with the Eighth Amendment while also providing roughly similar compensation to victims of violations. The features of the two kinds of actions just mentioned suggest that, in practice, the answer to this question is “yes.” And we have found nothing here to convince us to the contrary.
Fourth, Pollard argues that there “may” be similar kinds of Eighth Amendment claims that state tort law does not cover. But Pollard does not convincingly show that there are such cases. Compare Brief for Respondent Pollard 32 (questioning the availability of state tort remedies for “prisoners [who] suffer attacks by other inmates, preventable suicides, or the denial of heat, ventilation or movement”), with Giraldo, supra, at 248–249, 85 Cal Rptr. 3d, at 384–385 (courts have long held that prison officials must protect, e.g., transgender inmate from foreseeable harm by other inmates), and Restatement (Second) of Torts §§314A(4), 320.
Regardless, we concede that we cannot prove a negative or be totally certain that the features of state tort law relevant here will universally prove to be, or remain, as we have described them. Nonetheless, we are certain enough about the shape of present law as applied to the kind of case before us to leave different cases and different state laws to another day. That is to say, we can decide whether to imply a Bivens action in a case where an Eighth Amendment claim or state law differs significantly from those at issue here when and if such a case arises. The possibility of such a different future case does not provide sufficient grounds for reaching a different conclusion here.
For these reasons, where, as here, a federal prisoner seeks damages from privately employed personnel working at a privately operated federal prison, where the conduct allegedly amounts to a violation of the Eighth Amendment, and where that conduct is of a kind that typically falls within the scope of traditional state tort law (such as the conduct involving improper medical care at issue here), the prisoner must seek a remedy under state tort law. We cannot imply a Bivens remedy in such a case.
The judgment of the Ninth Circuit is reversed.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
MARGARET MINNECI, et al., PETITIONERS v. RICHARD LEE POLLARD et al.
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
[January 10, 2012]
Justice Ginsburg, dissenting.
Were Pollard incarcerated in a federalor state-operated facility, he would have a federal remedy for the Eighth Amendment violations he alleges. See Carlson v. Green, 446 U. S. 14 (1980) (Bivens action); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U. S. 97 (1976) ( 42 U. S. C. §1983 action). For the reasons stated in the dissenting opinion I joined in Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U. S. 61 –83 (2001) (opinion of Stevens, J.), I would not deny the same character of relief to Pollard, a prisoner placed by federal contract in a privately operated prison. Pollard may have suffered “aggravated instances” of conduct state tort law forbids, ante, at 9 (opinion of the Court), but that same aggravated conduct, when it is engaged in by official actors, 1 also offends the Federal Constitution, see Estelle, 429 U. S., at 105–106. Rather than remitting Pollard to the “vagaries” of state tort law, Carlson, 446 U. S., at 23, I would hold his injuries, sustained while serving a feder-al sentence, “compensable according to uniform rules of federal law,” Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388, 409 (1971) (Harlan, J., concurring in judgment).
Indeed, there is stronger cause for providing a federal remedy in this case than there was in Malesko. There, the question presented was whether a Bivens action lies against a private corporation that manages a facility housing federal prisoners. Malesko, 534 U. S., at 63. Suing a corporate employer, the majority observed in Malesko, would not serve to deter individual officers from conduct transgressing constitutional limitations on their authority. Id., at 70–71. Individual deterrence, the Court reminded, was the consideration central to the Bivens decision. Malesko, 534 U. S., at 70. Noting the availability of state tort remedies, the majority in Malesko declined to “exten[d] Bivens beyond [that decision’s] core premise,” i.e., deterring individual officers. Malesko, 534 U. S., at 71–73. Pollard’s case, in contrast, involves Bivens’ core concern: His suit seeking damages directly from individual officers would have precisely the deterrent effect the Court found absent in Malesko.
For the reasons stated, I would hold that relief potentially available under state tort law does not block Pollard’s recourse to a federal remedy for the affront to the Constitution he suffered. Accordingly, I would affirm the Ninth Circuit’s judgment.
1 The Ninth Circuit ruled that petitioners acted under color of federal law, Pollard v. The GEO Group, Inc., 629 F. 3d 843, 854 (2010), and petitioners did not seek this Court’s review of that determination, see Brief for Petitioners 37, n. 8.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
MARGARET MINNECI, et al., PETITIONERS v. RICHARD LEE POLLARD et al.
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
[January 10, 2012]
Justice Scalia, with whom Justice Thomas joins, concurring.
I join the opinion of the Court because I agree that a narrow interpretation of the rationale of Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388 (1971) , would not cause the holding of that case to apply to the circumstances of this case. Even if the narrowest rationale of Bivens did apply here, however, I would decline to extend its holding. Bivens is “a relic of the heady days in which this Court assumed common-law powers to create causes of action” by constitutional implication. Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U. S. 61, 75 (2001) (Scalia, J., concurring); see also Wilkie v. Robbins, 551 U. S. 537, 568 (2007) (Thomas, J., concurring). We have abandoned that power in the statutory field, see Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U. S. 275, 287 (2001) , and we should do the same in the constitutional field, where (presumably) an imagined “implication” cannot even be repudiated by Congress. As I have previously stated, see Malesko, supra, at 75, I would limit Bivens and its two follow-on cases (Davis v. Passman, 442 U. S. 228 (1979) , and Carlson v. Green, 446 U. S. 14 (1980) ) to the precise circumstances that they involved.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF JONATHAN S. FRANKLIN ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONERS
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: We will hear argument next in Case 10-1104, Minneci v. Pollard.
Mr. Franklin: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
Over the last 3 decades, the Court has made clear that Bivens remedies are disfavored and will only be authorized in narrow situations where there are no adequate alternative means for redressing a plaintiff's injuries and no other factor counsels hesitation.
Respondent has satisfied neither criteria.
He has not shown that he lacked a traditional tort remedy for the injuries of which he complains, and Petitioners' status as employees of a private contractor rather than the government at a minimum gives rise to factors counseling hesitation.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Can we go back to what you said initially, that is if there's no alternative remedy Bivens fills the gap.
Suppose we had a case just like Carlson, only the State law allows survivor actions.
In Carlson, I thought the rule emerging from Carlson is that prison personnel in Federal prisons are subject to Bivens liability, and we don't look in each case to see whether they could have been a State tort.
Mr. Franklin: Well, the rule--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Is that so?
Mr. Franklin: --The the rule -- the Carlson rule still applies, Your Honor, because that involved actual Federal government employees.
And since Carlson, Congress has preempted all tort claims against them.
So whether Indiana law now, which has been amended, but whether Indiana law provides a remedy or doesn't is immaterial, because Congress has preempted all tort claims against actual employees of the government.
But these -- this case involves -- the Petitioners are not employees of the government.
They are employees of a private contractor.
And under the Westfall Act, what Congress did was preempt all claims against actual government officials while preserving Bivens remedies.
But it did the opposite for employees of private contractors.
For them there are adequate alternative tort remedies.
And it's virtually undisputed in this case that there was such a remedy here.
And they are deliberately -- Congress expressly excluded them from the category of employees against whom it preserved Bivens remedies.
So yes, in the Carlson situation, there is still a Bivens claim because Congress has expressly preserved that.
But here we have a different congressional policy that we are, in effect, asking the Court to embrace here.
What Congress did in the Westfall Act is it said what in effect we are asking this Court to recognize and what we believe the Court has recognized in cases like Malesko, and that is, where there are adequate alternative tort -- excuse me, where there are no adequate--
Justice Elena Kagan: Suppose, Mr. Franklin, that there weren't.
I mean, I think you have a good case about California law here.
But suppose we were in a State where the law was very different from what California's law appears to be, where there was no special duty recognized for jailors, and indeed where the basic negligence tort was unavailable to inmates because there was a finding of -- a holding of the State supreme court that there was no duty on the part of jailors to inmates.
What would happen then?
Mr. Franklin: --In that hypothetical instance -- and we do think it's hypothetical -- we think that would be a different case and the Court could in that circumstance say there were no adequate alternative remedies.
But the reason we think it's entirely hypothetical is there has nothing been shown in the briefing of this Court and, as the Ninth Circuit dissenters made clear, that any State doesn't afford the bedrock cause of negligence.
And that cause, as the Court held in Malesko quite expressly, is not only adequate to redress any actions that would violate the Eighth Amendment, but it's actually superior.
Justice Elena Kagan: But is your answer--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Mr. Franklin, there were some references to Mississippi law that seems to be inconsistent with the notion that all States would provide an adequate remedy.
Mr. Franklin: I believe that reference, if I am correct, comes from an amicus brief, and that law does not -- would not on its face prohibit an action against a private managed prison holding Federal prisoners.
These laws -- and the Mississippi law is an example; there is a New York law -- those apply to State government officials.
They are similar to the Westfall Act, but on a state level.
They immunize State government officials from claims, but those claims would be subject to 1983 actions.
Here we have a privately managed prison holding Federal prisoners.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Is it -- then it might hold State prisoners as well.
Mr. Franklin: I'm sorry?
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: It might hold -- some private facilities will take State prisoners as well as Federal prisoners.
Mr. Franklin: There has been some representation, that we don't disagree with, that there might be some facilities that have State prisoners and--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: And if they do have State prisoners, the State prisoner would have recourse to, not Bivens, but 1983.
Mr. Franklin: --Most likely, Your Honor, yes, if it's under--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: So you have two prisoners, identical mistreatment, and one gets a Federal remedy and the other doesn't.
Mr. Franklin: --The other actually gets what the Court in Malesko described as a superior remedy.
The prisoner -- the Federal prisoner has, in that sense, a remedy that's beyond the Eighth Amendment, that goes--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Can you tell me why it is that you, you care in this suit?
If you are telling us, oh, don't worry, there's going to be liability and probably perhaps even more extensive liability than Bivens, what difference does it make?
Bivens doesn't give you attorneys fees.
Now, it's true that the Federal question may get you into Federal court.
Mr. Franklin: --Well, I have several answers to that.
First, Your Honor, my clients care very deeply in this case because, as the district court held, if there is no Bivens remedy this case is dismissed.
This case was dismissed on the lack of a Bivens remedy.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Just because of the statute of limitations?
Mr. Franklin: It's way too late now, 10 years after the incident, for them to now assert a State law claim.
So we do care.
And in fact that was the same situation that was in Malesko.
In Malesko you had a virtually identical situation, where the--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: If we are looking -- if we are looking forward beyond this case--
Mr. Franklin: --Right.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: --and there is no statute of limitation problem, does it really make any difference that he has a second cause of action that's just, A--
Mr. Franklin: It makes a--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: --duplicative or, B, arguably narrow, more narrow?
Mr. Franklin: --Well, two points.
I'd like to first say that the Court in Malesko adopted the principle that if there is an alternative remedy that's not a reason for piling on a Federal remedy; that's a reason not to.
But in a practical sense--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: But what difference does it make?
Mr. Franklin: --Let me give you a practical difference that it does matter for individuals in my clients' situation.
If a State tort claim is brought, there is respondeat superior liability under a State court claim.
And in many, if not most cases, the plaintiff will choose, voluntarily choose to sue the corporation and leave the individual out of the case.
Now, the deterrent effect that Bivens is concerned with still exists because the case can be brought against the individual.
However, if there is a Bivens claim, that has to be brought against the individual; it cannot be brought under respondeat superior.
So if there is a Bivens claim, as a practical matter you are going to see more and more individuals being dragged through these cases without, by the way, the recognized qualified immunity defense--
Justice Elena Kagan: --Mr. Franklin, do you have a theory about why these are brought as Bivens claims?
It seems mysterious to me.
If you bring it as a negligence claim, you get a lower standard of liability, negligence versus deliberate indifference.
You get vicarious liability.
So I have been trying to puzzle out, why aren't these brought as negligence claims rather than as Bivens claims?
Mr. Franklin: --I can't answer that question.
What I can say -- well, I can try to answer, but I can say that if the Court rules as we ask it to in this case, we think that there will not be Bivens claims, that people will bring them under the tort law.
It could be there are forms in some of these prisons that are given out that have section 1983 written on them, that Bivens is there.
It could be that prisoners are not quite aware that the Westfall Act doesn't cover private contractors.
But we would think if the Court rules as we suggest it should, that the -- that the prisoners who are relatively savvy, even on a pro se basis, about their rights would then understand that they have these rights and will exercise them and that the Bivens remedy would not have been to be employed willy-nilly as it was in this case.
Justice Elena Kagan: To go back to what I asked before when I hypothesized a State that didn't have adequate remedies, and you said -- well, just to pin down what you said, if there were no adequate remedies there would be a Bivens action available?
Mr. Franklin: There might be, Your Honor.
There still is the factors counseling hesitation, which is the second step of the Bivens analysis.
And I wouldn't want to give up that there might be factors in those cases counseling hesitation.
But certainly our position is not that -- in a circumstance, if that arose, and again we think that's hypothetical because there is no indication either that it has arisen or that it will arise, but if it were to, our position wouldn't rule out the possibility of a Bivens claim in those circumstances.
Justice Samuel Alito: To get back to the question that Justice Ginsburg asked, is that consistent with Carlson?
Because the Court in Carlson didn't say that there is a Bivens action because in this particular State there isn't a viable State action, but it might be different in another State where there is a viable State claim.
It did it on basically a categorical ground.
Mr. Franklin: Well, as the case came to the Court in Carlson, it was undisputed that there was no adequate State law remedy, the lower courts had held.
So that was sort of the basic premise that the Court then went ahead and decided the case on.
Since Carlson, we've had cases, notably Malesko and also Wilkie, which have made clear that the adequacy of remedies, including State law remedies, is a factor in the Bivens analysis and is in fact the dispositive factor in Malesko, as in this case as well.
We don't think that there is really any serious dispute in this case that there were adequate alternative remedies.
Again, the deliberate indifference standard is much, much more hard -- much harder to meet than a traditional negligence standard.
California law is, further, more protective of prisoners.
As we understand the Respondents' position, the Court -- they would urge the Court, notwithstanding the availability of alternative remedies in this case and as far as we can tell in every foreseeable case, to create what they refer to as a categorical cause of action, one that would apply regardless of whether the remedies are adequate or not.
And in our view, that would turn the Bivens jurisprudence effectively on its head.
The Court has said Bivens is a narrow -- I think Justice Ginsburg at least paraphrased our argument as saying it's a gap-filling mechanism, which is what our argument is -- that would apply only in those circumstances when it's necessary.
Other than that, the Court has consistently deferred the matter to Congress.
And that's where we think it ought to lie in this case.
Justice Samuel Alito: Does a prisoner in a State that requires the filing of a certificate of merit in a medical malpractice case have an alternative -- a viable alternative State claim--
Mr. Franklin: Yes, again, that's--
Justice Samuel Alito: --for malpractice?
Mr. Franklin: --We say yes.
That issue is not in this case.
The Eleventh Circuit in Alba expressly addressed that issue under that State's law, and said yes, that is adequate.
It's simply a procedural requirement that applies to all plaintiffs.
And I would add, by the way, that--
Justice Elena Kagan: How is a prisoner supposed to satisfy that requirement?
Mr. Franklin: --The same way any other plaintiff is supposed to.
What I was going to add is that when you are alleging an Eighth Amendment violation, you are talking about a claim that by its nature is very severe.
You are talking about deliberate indifference to serious medical needs that constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.
In those circumstances, we would suggest that it might even be easier to procure that kind of declaration, but -- that issue was decided in Alba, so that -- that was decided.
If it comes up in another case, it can be decided there.
We don't think that that would render the -- if it's -- if it's an adequate remedy for everyone else in that State and most States that have these things, then it's an adequate remedy for Bivens.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Did any of those courts address the problem of how the pro se prisoner is going to get an affidavit?
Mr. Franklin: Well, Alba -- the Alba court is -- is the only court that I'm aware of on the circuit level that's considered it.
And I believe they did address that issue and simply said that it is -- puts them on an equal footing with other plaintiffs, and that that would be an adequate remedy.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: I don't -- I don't understand your answer to Justice Kagan.
If -- if I heard you right, you were saying, well, they are going to be able to get a certificate because it's an Eighth Amendment violation and everything is very severe.
But the point is, they are going to bring a negligence action, not an Eighth Amendment action.
Mr. Franklin: Right.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: So--
Mr. Franklin: I'm talking about if the conduct -- we are comparing here between conduct that would violate the Eighth Amendment and conduct that is negligent, and I'm saying if the conduct rises to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation, which is what we're talking about in terms of the adequacy, then it would be easier, one would presume.
Justice Elena Kagan: But I think the question, Mr. Franklin, is really just a practical one--
Mr. Franklin: Sure.
Justice Elena Kagan: --which is how a pro se person sitting in prison is supposed to have access to a doctor who will provide this certificate.
And, I mean, maybe there would be means, but I'm asking whether there would be.
Mr. Franklin: I would think there would, but I don't want to say -- I don't want to argue someone else's case on that.
I mean, I do think that that was an issue that was resolved, at least in the Eleventh Circuit in Alba.
It's not an issue that applies in this case because there is no such certificate here in California.
I do think it would be adequate.
I mean, Bush v. Lucas, which was a Federal remedies case, said there were what they called "meaningful remedies".
As long as there is a meaningful remedy, it's sufficient.
And if Congress wants to think that there is a problem, for example, if Congress thinks there is a problem with these certificates of merit in the case of privately run facilities, then it certainly can establish a cause of action as it did in section 1983.
But the Bivens doctrine is really a narrow, as we say, gap-filling doctrine.
And the Court has always used it very sparingly.
And the reason the Court has done that is because there is no authority for it in the language of any constitutional or statutory provision.
So the Court has always treaded very cautiously in this area.
And I wouldn't rule out in that circumstance that somebody could make that argument.
I -- I just don't think in this case there has been any real dispute that there's an adequate remedy.
There wasn't in Malesko and that was sufficient in that case.
And we think it is sufficient in this case as well for the Court to in effect stay its Bivens hand and turn the matter if necessary over to Congress.
Justice Samuel Alito: Under the PLRA -- under the PLRA, a district judge has to perform a screening function for -- for these complaints, and is that -- is it going to be an impossible burden for district judges to ascertain the contours of state prison law, in that there apparently is not a lot of prisoner litigation under State law?
Most prisoners seem to choose 1983.
Mr. Franklin: Well, in this case, the agistrate judge did it.
It wasn't an impossible burden m for him.
This was done on a prescreening; the Court ruled exactly as we are asking the Court to rule now.
The Court did -- the Court in Malesko did it.
It wasn't difficult.
If it is deemed that there is an issue there, there are various procedural mechanisms that could be employed.
There could be a dismissal without prejudice, a dismissal with repleading, certificate to a State court.
You could stay the Bivens action.
There's various things that district courts can do.
But in this case, it wasn't an issue.
It wasn't an issue in Malesko.
We don't think it's going to be an issue in others either.
If I may reserve the remainder of my time.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --Thank you, counsel.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF PRATIK A. SHAH ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES, AS AMICUS CURIAE, SUPPORTING THE PETITIONERS
Mr. Shah: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
The last 3 decades of this Court's precedents make clear that judicial extension of the Bivens remedy is not the default presumption.
It is permissible only where there is no adequate alternative remedy and there are no other factors counseling hesitation.
Neither criterion is satisfied here.
Respondent is suing employees of a private prison corporation who, unlike their Federally employed counterparts, are subject to well-established theories of tort liability, but lack a recognized qualified immunity defense.
Under the circumstances present here, which I submit reflect the heartland of cases alleging Eighth Amendment violations for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, recognition of the Bivens remedy is neither necessary nor appropriate.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Mr. Shah, go back to what you said about lacking these private -- these employees of the private corporation you said lack qualified immunity.
But they do have -- courts have allowed them to have a good faith defense.
So in practice, how different is that, whether they have qualified immunity or whether they have a good faith defense?
Mr. Shah: A couple of responses, Your Honor.
First, this Court has never recognized a good faith defense, so I wouldn't call it a recognized defense.
It is true that some lower courts have applied a good faith defense.
Reading those cases, it is not entirely clear exactly what the content of that good faith defense is.
What is clear is that it is something less than qualified immunity.
It appears in most of the cases that they are grafting on some sort of subjective element, subjective intent element, on top of what you must establish to get qualified immunity.
So whatever it is, it is something lesser than qualified immunity, and I think that in and of itself creates an asymmetry.
But I think the larger point is, is that these prisoners have alternative adequate remedies under State law because they are suing a private employee rather than a government employee.
The government employee is subject to the Westfall Act and therefore all civil actions other than Bivens are preempted.
So I think that's the fundamental difference.
I think it further counsels hesitation because of the lack of a recognized immunity defense, whether that's qualified immunity or good faith.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Could you address the question posed earlier of what were to happen if there was a State law that gave absolute immunity to these private correctional officers and that was the case before us.
This particular State, it's undisputed, would not permit any kind of intentional or negligence suit against these officers.
Mr. Shah: Sure.
Your Honor, in that hypothetical -- and of course, there is no suggestion in this case that any State has such a rule -- but if a State were to adopt that such rule, I think that would be a case where there is no adequate alternative remedy, because in your -- in your hypothetical, there is absolute immunity.
There wouldn't be a way for the prisoner to redress -- seek redress for the gravamen of his injuries.
And I think in that case, we have a very different situation and a Bivens remedy may well be justified.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Interesting, because what you are proposing is a sort of State by State, circuit by circuit, presumably existence of a Bivens claim or not.
That -- that is really the outcome of your position.
Mr. Shah: Well, yes, Your Honor, except the fact that there has been no suggestion that any State has such a draconian rule or has ever passed one.
We are simply arguing for a rule that would limit Bivens when there is no adequate State law remedy.
That is clearly the case here.
It's clearly going to be the case in the vast majority of Eighth Amendment prisoners.
What this Court should not do is craft a default rule allowing Bivens remedies against employees of private prison corporations just to account for the hypothetical possibility that there may be a case which may or may not ever arise in which an adequate alternative is not.
That turns Bivens jurisprudence on its head.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Then I guess the question is, yes, when you talk about an overlap of remedies, we have said that it doesn't need to be a matching one to one remedy, but you do need some degree of meaningful overlap, don't you?
Mr. Shah: I would agree with that, Your Honor.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So how -- define how much or how do we describe the adequacy of that order?
Mr. Shah: --I think it would be difficult to come up with a precise formulation.
I think the formulation that we use in our brief is that as long as it redressed the gravamen of the prisoner's injuries.
So I think as long as it provides some meaningful relief for the injuries and in turn that would provide some deterrence to the individual employees' actions, I think as long as those two elements are present, I think we would think that there is an adequate alternative remedy.
Or, alternatively, if you wanted to use the words -- the word that this Court used in Bivens, you could approach it from the flip side and say there would not be an adequate alternative remedy where the State law is either inconsistent with or hostile to the corresponding constitutional interest.
We submit in this case there is no question that there are remedies available under California State law and as far as we know the State law of every other State in this country that would allow--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: The Bivens action is unusual in the first place, but it's also unusual to say that you don't have a Federal cause of action because of something a State gives you.
Do you have any other example of something like that, where the availability of Federal relief turns on the availability of alternative relief under State law?
Mr. Shah: --Your Honor, it may not be an exact analog, but I think Federal due process cases often will look at someone's claims of deprivation of property, an unlawful deprivation of property in violation of process.
The Federal court may often look at whether the available State law procedures to provide redress for that claim before it would impose or find a violation of Federal due process.
So I think there are analogs where Federal courts do look at the availability of State law remedies and look at their adequacy before determining whether a Federal law remedy is necessary.
And this Court has done that.
And the Court did it in Malesko, I think is the best example in the Bivens context of where the Court looked at alternative State remedies and said that, hey look, the availability of these other remedies counsel against the imposition of the Bivens remedy.
Justice Elena Kagan: What is the theory behind that, Mr. Shah?
I mean there is an obvious theory when Congress has provided an alternative remedial system, which is a separation of powers theory.
But what's the theory about looking to State law for these kinds of alternative remedies?
Mr. Shah: Two responses, Your Honor.
While I agree the separation of powers problem is much more heightened when Congress acts, I think there is still a separation of powers issue even when Congress has not acted.
That is, the Court should be hesitant before -- before implying a judicial cause of action for damages under the Constitution, given that it's typically been Congress's province to do so.
But beyond that, the rationales -- there have been two rationales that have been given by this Court in its Bivens jurisprudence for implying such a remedy.
One is the need to provide some meaningful relief.
We submit when there is an alternative state remedy, that rational has been satisfied.
The other rationale this Court has offered is provide some deterrent to the actions of an individual employee or officer.
We also submit that when there is a State tort damages remedy available, that rationale too will be accomplished.
The three occasions in which this Court has recognized the Bivens remedy, Bivens itself, Davis and Carlson, those two factors were not present.
There was either no alternative remedy at all or at least, as in Carlson, no alternative remedy against the individual officer.
Justice Samuel Alito: What would you propose that the Court say about the degree of adequate State remedy that is necessary?
Just -- what we have here in California is enough and not go any further or--
Mr. Shah: I think the Court should start with that.
Certainly here there hasn't been any dispute that there would be -- any real serious dispute that there would be an adequate alternative remedy.
I think the Court could also say that as long as the adequate alternative remedy addresses the gravamen of the prisoner's injuries, that should be sufficient.
And I think it could give content to that by looking at the two rationales this Court has offered for Bivens.
Justice Samuel Alito: --Suppose that a State did for claims against private prisons and private prison guards what I understand New York has done with respect to State-run prisons.
In other words, that you eliminate any claim against individual prison employees or guards and give the prisoner just a tort claim against the State.
Would that be adequate?
Mr. Shah: I think that would be a tougher case.
And, of course, I assume in your hypothetical that that's -- that that would also apply to Federal prisoners and Federally contracted prisons, and it's difficult to figure out what the State's interests--
Justice Samuel Alito: Not a claim against the State.
A claim -- only a claim against the company that runs the prison.
Mr. Shah: --Your Honor, again I think that would be a more difficult hypothetical because the rational about individual deterrence of the individual officer may not be as strong in that hypothetical.
But once again, no State has such a rule and it's difficult to imagine a State's incentive to adopt such a rule because it's not coming out of the State's pockets.
These are Federally contracted prisons, contracted by BOP and run by private prison corporations.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: What about the character of the claim?
If it's a Bivens claim it's a constitutional claim, it's an Eighth Amendment claim.
And if you are looking to state remedies, that's an ordinary tort remedy with no constitutional involvement.
Mr. Shah: Your Honor, it is true, the labels are different and there's going to be different meaning to those remedies.
But from the prisoner's standpoint, the rationale behind Bivens was to provide some damages relief.
From the prisoner's standpoint it's not going to matter, I would submit, whether or not those damages are procured under State law or under a constitutionally implied action.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF JOHN F. PREIS ON BEHALF OF THE RESPONDENTS
Mr. Preis: Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:
The question before the Court today is whether a Federal prisoner's access to constitutional remedies should turn on the mere happenstance of where the prisoner is detained.
The Petitioner's chief argument is that privately-held Federal prisoners should not have an Eighth Amendment damages remedy because they have damages under State law.
This argument suffers from two flaws.
First, it misconceives this Court's Bivens jurisprudence; second, it misconceives the nature of State remedies available to prisoners.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Why are State remedies -- what of your clients' claims could not be vindicated under State law?
And why is a Bivens action superior to a negligence action in California?
Mr. Preis: Your Honor, with regard to the claims that can't be vindicated under State law, we think its likely that his medical malpractice claims, the claims against the doctors, could be vindicated.
We don't think the law is clear in -- excuse me -- in California that his other claims, the deprivation, nutrition, hygiene, forced labor at some point before his injuries were healed, that those would necessarily be covered.
We admit there is a chance, as we did in our brief, that it's possible the California Supreme Court could say, well, there has been an intermediate appellate court that has decided this.
We take on guidance that and believe these remedies would be covered.
But there is nothing here that could assure this Court that that's the way it will work out.
With regards to why Bivens are superior, Bivens are superior when there is no State cause of action.
So there will be some cases, as we concede, where a State cause of action is available.
The reason Mr. Pollard brings a Federal cause of action in this case is because it's not clear that State remedies are certainly available.
And I think that certainty is an important thing for this Court to remember.
The issue before Bivens itself was whether or not this Court should adopt a system of state remedies.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: But the specific case with state remedies is not available is--
Mr. Franklin: Your Honor I'm not aware.
Mr. Preis: --Your Honor I'm not aware of any particular case where a state--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --No, no, no.
Your allegation, which you believe states a valid claim under Bivens action but not under state law is--
Mr. Preis: --The claims that we say do not have--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --I don't understand specifically what they are.
I mean it sounds to me that if a person, A, deliberately starves somebody to death, for example, or deliberately gives him something which will make him sick when he eats it, that that would at least be negligence and would arise under ordinary state tort law.
So I'm curious to know what your claim is that does not arise under ordinary state tort law?
Mr. Preis: --Your Honor, I think that the starkest example, if it was the case that somebody actually starved someone--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: No, don't answer my -- forget my hypothetical.
Tell me your specific claim that does not arise under state tort law, that's all I want to know, which is the same question I heard -- I just didn't hear the answer to.
Mr. Preis: --Oh, excuse me, Your Honor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I heard the answer in general.
Mr. Preis: Okay.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I want to know specifically what you say they did to your client that doesn't make out a State tort claim.
Mr. Preis: He brings four claims that he think alleges an Eighth Amendment violation.
One is the medical malpractice which we concede is likely available; the other three, we do not find sufficient evidence in California law that there certainly be a remedy.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I heard you say--
Mr. Preis: And those three are--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --that.
I just want to know what it is physically you say the defendant did to your client, so that I can evaluate your statement that California gives no tort remedy for that.
Mr. Preis: --Your Honor--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Sorry, I don't mind to sound irritated but I just have trouble getting my question across.
Mr. Preis: --Understood, Your Honor.
Mr. Pollard was deprived of adequate food and hygiene.
A second claim, he was--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: All right.
They failed to give him adequate food for what?
So he could live, or for what?
Mr. Preis: --Well, yes, adequate nutrition.
I'm not saying to the point of death, but--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: They gave him -- and if a person in California who has charge of -- of a ward or someone fails adequately to nourish that ward, you are saying California tort law gives no remedy?
Mr. Preis: --I'm saying there is no evidence that it does, Your Honor.
I think it--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --cause like negligence, you give a remedy.
It's not negligent; it's deliberate?
Mr. Preis: --Your Honor, I think -- I would put -- I think the best way to approach that question is to look at the shoes of an attorney.
When if someone comes in and says I was deprived of these benefits that I was entitled to and I was suffered a harm, the question would be for the lawyers, well, I'll go read the case--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: You can't--
Justice Antonin Scalia: The lawyer would say I can't find a starving case in California.
So you must not have a cause of action.
Is that what the lawyer would say?
Mr. Preis: --No, I think the lawyer would say, I can't be certain.
I haven't found a case--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --of -- because the Eighth Amendment says cruel and unusual punishment.
So you have to have a cruel treatment and where a person deliberately or negligently subjects someone else to cruel treatment, my -- my law school recollection of many years ago is that there ordinarily is a tort action.
So, so -- that's what I would like you -- I'm suspicious of your statement that there isn't.
Mr. Preis: --Yes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Therefore, I ask for some elaboration of that.
Justice Antonin Scalia: What do you have besides starving?
What -- what else?
Mr. Preis: The other claims were after he suffered his injuries he was put back on his work detail before his injuries were healed.
He was also immediately after being injured forced to sort of endure excessive security measures, forced to wear particular handcuffs that pushed his arms in an -- in a way that would cause extraordinary pain and was unnecessary.
Justice Elena Kagan: Can I ask you the same question that I asked Mr. Franklin?
Because it just doesn't make any sense to me.
The gravamen of this claim is a medical malpractice claim.
Why aren't your State law remedies better?
You have vicarious liability and all you have to prove is negligence.
Why wasn't this brought as a State law claim?
Mr. Preis: Your Honor, I think there is two parts to that, two answers I would give.
First, Mr. Pollard was put in a Federal prison by the Federal Government.
He often has access -- actually only has access to Federal law books.
When he sees himself injured he thinks this is presumably a Federal case.
so I think there is a certain ethic or at least practice as how that works.
Now, why wouldn't medical malpractice work here.
Justice Elena Kagan: Well that was just false consciousness that we can correct, right?
Mr. Preis: Excuse me, Your Honor, I missed the beginning.
Justice Elena Kagan: I mean, if the -- if the true appropriate remedy, and the better remedy from your client's point of view, is a State law action, we should just say bring a State law.
Mr. Preis: Well we think that prisoners should have access to the State law action, and when there is cause of action available, it might indeed be a better remedy.
But I think in terms of whether or not medical malpractice works here, it will work in terms of deterring the medical professionals, but we have multiple defendants in this case, not all of them -- of which would be culpable under -- or liable under a medical malpractice regime.
How do we handle the other prisoners -- excuse me, the other defendants?
So I think you're focused in terms of the remedies available, and I would concede, of course, that's important to the -- to the prisoner; but course, the Court is concerned with deterrence in these cases.
So I want to return to Justice Breyer's question if I might.
The gravamen of this case is that in ordinary cases, most of the time, and the Court is required in this case to figure how big is that "most of the time"?
Is it 99 percent of time, is it 80 percent of the time?
And that's what we simply don't have I want to point--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: When I went to law school, evidence on in this case.
which was many years ago, instead of talking about, like, starvation cases or medical malpractice, they talked about a general thing called negligence.
Mr. Preis: --Yes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: And it seemed to apply to doctors, and then it was medical malpractice, and it applied to others, and -- and is there something here that wouldn't fall in that general kind of rubric, or the general terms of California tort law?
Mr. Preis: Your Honor, I guess your--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: And I know, I don't want you just to repeat yourself.
So I guess I have the best answer I have.
Mr. Preis: --No -- Your Honor, I will say two things that -- first, I think what you are asking me to do and in a sense what the Court will be required to do in this case is predict what State supreme courts will do on a regular basis.
And I would suggest -- suggest that's sort of an extraordinary measure to take in case where you have Federal prisoners, Federal constitutional rights and Federal actors.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --limit our inquiry to California?
Mr. Preis: Excuse me?
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Limit it to California.
What -- what--
Mr. Preis: I don't--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --They're saying don't look at what other courts will do, just look at the State you are in, the place you are going to make your claim and figure out whether your claims are covered or not covered essentially in those -- in that State.
Mr. Preis: --They are suggesting this Court look only at California.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Right.
Mr. Preis: We don't think that is appropriate.
This Court's view has always been that a Bivens action exists or does not exist with regards to a entire category of defendants, or context.
Justice Antonin Scalia: So there -- if there is one State that would not have an adequate remedy for any -- any single bad thing that could happen in prison, there is a Bivens action for everybody for everything?
Is that what you are saying?
Mr. Preis: Yes, Your Honor, we are.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Wow.
Mr. Preis: I think if the Court were to write an opinion in that case--
Justice Antonin Scalia: I certainly wouldn't want to hold that.
Mr. Preis: --I'm not surprised that you wouldn't want to hold that, Your Honor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I would find that rather surprising, too, actually.
Mr. Preis: Well--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Because I -- I think what they're asking to do is fine.
On their theory you have no problem, because you go back and show to the Court that there is no remedy in California for shackling a person -- I guess deliberately, with knowledge that that would cause severe pain, and if you can show that, then you are going to have your Bivens action in respect to that.
Mr. Preis: --Well--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: That -- that -- what they are saying is that you are not going to be able to show that, so it doesn't worry them.
Mr. Preis: --Your Honor, I think that the -- the view that there's an ordinary duty of care, a duty to be reasonable, is quite a bit more complex than the Petitioners would make it out to be.
Let me offer an example.
In this case in 2007, the district court dismissed Mr. Pollard's complaint.
The district court said you have State remedies.
Well, what was the proof for that?
What was the State law remedy that existed?
The only thing the district court cited in a footnote was section 1714 of California's civil code.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Who says that the burden is on the other side?
Why isn't the burden on you, if you want to bring a Bivens action, on you, to show that there is not an adequate State remedy?
Mr. Preis: Your Honor--
Justice Antonin Scalia: You are the plaintiff here, you are trying to bring the Federal cause of action.
Our law is clear; if there is an adequate remedy we don't invent one.
Why isn't it your burden to show that there is not an adequate State remedy?
Mr. Preis: --Your Honor, two answers to that.
First of all, this Court's most recent case where it dealt with whether or not a burden should exist was Wilkie, and there, the majority of the Court said when we look at alternative remedies we try to figure out, quote, "whether they amount to a" --
"amount to a convincing reason for the judicial branch to refrain from providing a new and free-standing remedy. "
Inasmuch as there has been burden discussion in this Court's case law, it would seem to fall -- fall on the other side.
Now, I think there is an important point here when we think of burden.
This case is so close to Carlson that really the burden should be on them to take it out of Carlson.
I want to address Carlson for a second if I may.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, before you do, on page 5 of your brief you say, in the private prison setting, quote,
"a Bivens claim against the offending individual offending officer. "
end quote, is an appropriate remedy.
And the quote is from Malesko.
Mr. Preis: Yes.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: What we said in Malesko, where you quote, is that if a Federal prisoner in a BOP facility alleges a constitutional deprivation, he may bring a Bivens claim against the offending individual officer.
Now your friend describes that as a distortion of what we said in Malesko, and I just wanted to give you a chance to reply to what I think is a fairly serious assertion.
Mr. Preis: Yes, Your Honor, and I would seriously disagree with the suggestion it's a distortion.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, just to be clear.
You quote that language, you say BOP facility.
Mr. Preis: Your Honor, what the Court was speaking of in that section of its opinion was that the remedies between a BOP facility and individuals in a private facility should be similar, that it made no sense to give extra remedies to people in a private facility.
And so the Court, Justice -- Chief Justice Rehnquist at the time was making a comparison saying there should be a general symmetry.
And all we were pointing out in that quote is that inasmuch as symmetry matters, well, the Court there in Malesko had said, well we would likely expect there to be an individual remedy.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: You would expect the same rule.
That's your argument--
Mr. Preis: Yes.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --to apply in the private prison setting.
What you say is that there, we explained, that in the private prison setting, a Bivens claim against the offending individual officer was the appropriate remedy.
Mr. Preis: Your Honor, I guess I certainly took part of the quote and didn't use all of the quote, but I did not in any means say--
Justice Antonin Scalia: That's known as misquoting--
Mr. Preis: --Well, Your Honor, I guess I would respectfully differ.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Would you be taking the position that even if there is an alternative State remedy, tort remedy, even so, there ought to be a power of Bivens action?
Or would you say no Bivens action if all of the States have adequate tort remedies?
Mr. Preis: I think, Your Honor, if this Court would -- could tell with confidence that States in all States provided sufficient remedies for the entire variety of Eighth Amendment violations, this Court would be certainly wise in allowing State remedies to work.
But I think we are far from that situation.
I want to turn, if I may--
Justice Elena Kagan: Could you give me your best example of a State tort rule that would prevent a prisoner from bringing an Eighth Amendment claim?
Mr. Preis: --Excuse me, Your Honor.
Could you repeat that question?
Justice Elena Kagan: Your best example of a tort rule from any State that would preclude a -- a valid Eighth Amendment claim.
Mr. Preis: In other words, the prisoner would have an Eighth Amendment claim but not a tort--
Justice Elena Kagan: You have 50 States' worth of tort law to -- as your playground, and I want to know what tort rule would keep a prisoner with a valid Eighth Amendment claim -- would prevent him from recovering?
Mr. Preis: --Your Honor, I would note Maryland, for example.
In Maryland, attacks by a prisoner on another prisoner are evaluated in terms of the liability of the warden; a lot evaluate it on a maliciousness standard.
Now, the standard this Court uses in its acts by one prisoner against another is a deliberate indifference standard.
The deliberate indifference standard is different.
We are not arguing in this case--
Justice Antonin Scalia: --I don't understand what you are talking about.
Is -- is this a suit against the prisoner who was attacked?
Mr. Preis: --Excuse me, Your Honor?
Justice Antonin Scalia: He is not liable unless he is malicious, or what?
Mr. Preis: No, it's a suit against the warden for a failure to protect someone against attack by another prisoner.
Justice Antonin Scalia: I see.
And -- and the warden is liable in Maryland, you say, only if he is malicious?
Mr. Preis: The test in Maryland is maliciousness, yes.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: What about medical malpractice caps?
Is that an issue?
In other words, State law -- I don't know how many there are; I know it's been proposed.
I think it's true in some cases -- will cap your recovery for medical malpractice at a particular level.
Mr. Preis: Your Honor, I don't think it's a significant difference in this case.
For instance, California--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: I guess that was a helpful question, in the sense that--
Mr. Preis: --Oh, I understand.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --The Bivens action, presumably the cap would not apply.
But it applies under State law.
Mr. Preis: I think there will be some cases in which the remedies will be curtailed under State law.
And one could expect that the deterrent value of a State law remedy would not be available.
I have a couple of minutes remaining and I want to turn to Carlson.
I think the suggestion in this -- the discussion that we have had so far is that we are asking the Court to reach out and create an extraordinary cause of action.
I simply don't think that's true.
This case is very similar, if not the same as, Carlson.
In Carlson, the Court said that a Federal prisoner has a cause of action against Federal actors for a Federal constitutional right.
That's what this case is.
And the only distinction the Petitioners can point to is the fact that they are privately employed Federal actors as opposed to publicly employed Federal actors.
The question becomes, is "privately employed" Federal actor a meaningful distinction from "publicly employed"?
We would -- if that distinction is meaningful, we would have expected to find some discussion of it in Malesko, but the Court there paid absolutely no attention to the private status.
The Court in Malesko said that Malesko, that case, was in every meaningful sense the same as FDIC v. Meyer.
FDIC v. Meyer was a suit against a public agency.
If the case is in every meaningful sense the same as Meyer, then it must have been what mattered to the Court in Malesko was that it was a suit against an entity, not public versus private.
So we think there is no evidence in this case that -- excuse me -- no -- nothing in the law that suggests that this Court cares and ever have cared the distinction between public and private remedies.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: But in Carlson, it was Bivens or no damage remedy.
Here, that's not the case.
Mr. Preis: Excuse me, Your Honor, I missed the first part of the question.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: In Carlson, the Court was operating on the theory that with respect to the Federal employees, it was a Bivens remedy for damages or no remedy at all.
Mr. Preis: No individual remedy.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Right.
Mr. Preis: Yes, Your Honor.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: And here, it is different from Carlson because there is an -- a remedy against an individual.
So we have the parallel remedies here which didn't exist in Carlson, and that makes the two cases different.
Mr. Preis: Your Honor, I think it's fair to say that in Carlson, the Court expressed a preference for an individual remedy over an entity remedy.
But I don't think it's fair to say that the Court addressed in Carlson how it would compare to individual remedies.
That issue actually came up in Bivens.
There was an individual remedy proposed that would be available under State law, and the alternative was a remedy under the Constitution itself.
So when the Court was faced with two alternative individual actions, the Court said that we prefer the constitutional cause of action.
And the reason in Bivens was we can't be certain really how State law works.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Do you disagree that the -- I know you have your argument on compensation--
Mr. Preis: Yes.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --But with respect to deterrence, is there any significant difference between the two causes of action?
In other words, if you think the most significant aspect of Bivens is to deter constitutional violations, doesn't that work equally as well or perhaps more effectively under the State law than under Bivens?
Mr. Preis: Your Honor, I think in the end the question asks me to make a 50-State assessment of how State law works, and in that sense, one can only speak in generalizations--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: So your answer -- your answer is the same as under compensation, that the State law might be different or not?
Mr. Preis: --We think, inasmuch as a cause of action is available, with the exception, as the Court noted, of damages caps, there -- we would expect to have a similar level of deterrence, provided the damages are available.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Who -- who actually ends up paying in these Bivens actions?
I mean, what we don't know -- is it the Federal government or an individual or--
Mr. Preis: We would expect -- first of all, obviously, the liability is imposed on the individual.
We would expect as a general matter that there would be indemnification by the corporation.
The question then is, of course, whether that gets passed on to the Federal government.
And I don't think it's fair -- if the Court allows a Bivens action here, I think there's the suggestion that all of a sudden, there'll be a whole new realm of liability and costs.
And that is simply not the case--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --I'm just looking in terms of the practical deterrence.
The problem I've had with it in general, I don't know how much practical deterrence there is, is if you sue the individual and the -- the individual doesn't actually pay, the government does.
It seems to me perhaps more likely in the private context that the individual may get stuck with some amount of a liability if the employer just says, look, you were off doing something you weren't supposed to do; we are not going to pay for it.
Mr. Preis: --Your Honor, I am not versed in the indemnification rules of private prisons, but I would expect that there will be some instances where there is indemnification.
I think the general rule in terms of--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Do you think that the warden of a Maryland prison is aware that if -- if he allows one prisoner to beat up another prisoner, he is only liable for maliciousness and not for deliberate indifference -- if indeed there is a difference between the two?
Do -- do you think that -- that he is threading the needle that finely as far as -- as far as deterrence is concerned?
Mr. Preis: --Your Honor, I think it's always been this Court's presumption that actors, legal actors, respond to the standards of law that are imposed.
I can't say--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Not -- not at that level of -- of refinement.
I mean, it seems to me that any warden knows he's subject to State tort law, and that State tort law renders him liable for negligence, and indeed for physical assaults.
Some of your causes of action are intentional torts, not even negligence.
I find it hard to believe that as far as deterrence is concerned, there is a dime's worth of difference between State law and -- and the Bivens action you are asking for.
Mr. Preis: --Your Honor, if it's the case that there's not a dime's worth of difference, that would only be at this point.
And one can expect State law to change over time.
I think one of the questions propounded to Mr. Franklin or Mr. Shah was, what if the state imposed a -- or created absolute immunity?
I think -- I take Your Honor's point to be that there could be a similarity at one point.
And we agree that that could exist for a particular circumstance.
But we don't think this Court should take the enforcement of Federal rights in Federal prisons with regard to Federal actors and set up a scheme where that is handled through state law.
There is simply not a justification there.
Your Honor, I would like to address the Westfall Act.
They argue strenuously that Congress has already spoken in this case, and that's simply not the case.
In the FT -- put it this way.
The FTCA and the Westfall Act deal only with Federal employees, the liability of Federal government for actions of Federal employees.
Their argument is essentially that Congress attempted to deal with whether or not private contractors should be liable in these situations by amending a statute that has nothing to do with private contractors.
And that simply doesn't work.
It's not -- there is no suggestion here that Congress attempted to address this situation.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Well, what was the purpose of making the reference to private contractors in the Westfall Act?
Mr. Preis: Your Honor, the Court -- excuse me, Congress did not make a reference to private contractors in the Westfall Act.
They simply, Congress simply referred to employees of the United States.
And the reason the Court -- excuse me, Congress referred to employees of the United States was because the FTCA only applies, and has always only applied to contractors -- excuse me, of employees of the United States.
There would have been no reason to reach out because it would be totally beyond the specter of the FTCA itself.
I think, Your Honor, there is something else to note with regard to Congress.
At most, what we are dealing with here is congressional silence.
They suggest that Congress is fit to take care of this.
Nobody doubts that Congress is fit to step in and take care of this at some point in time.
But Cong -- this Court's practice with regards to Bivens has been when Congress steps in, to stand back.
But here we have congressional silence.
As this -- as the Court said in 2007, it's most recent Bivens case was, when you are dealing -- well, excuse me -- the Wilkie case did not involve any specific congressional action.
The Court viewed it essentially as congressional silence.
The majority of this Court at that time said our evaluation in that instance is to figure out -- excuse me -- whether the Federal courts must make the kind of remedial determination that is appropriate for a common law tribunal.
The Court at that point saw itself as that point as a common law tribunal within the specific circumstance of whether or not a Bivens remedy should be available.
That's not to say the Court should adopt some sort of roving common law power.
It's simply to say where there's congressional silence and the case looks almost identical to Carlson, if not identical, that there is sufficient reason for this Court to find a Bivens cause of action here.
If there are no further questions, I urge this Court to affirm the holding of the Ninth Circuit.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
Mr. Franklin, you have four minutes remaining.
REBUTTAL ARGUMENT OF JONATHAN S. FRANKLIN ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONERS
Mr. Franklin: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.
I just wanted to correct one common misimpression.
There is no allegation here that anyone was deliberately starved.
With the allegation regarding the food, his allegation in his complaint is that he, because presumably his arms were in casts, he couldn't hold his tray in the cafeteria and therefore he says I had to buy my own food from the commissary because I didn't want to be humiliated by going to the cafeteria.
We think that if that claim somehow stated a claim under the Eighth Amendment for deliberate indifference, that he would state a claim under negligence as well, and all of these claims essentially are that the prison failed to accommodate his injuries.
Malesko was the same.
In Malesko the argument was I didn't get to use an elevator because I had a preexisting condition, and that's what caused my harm.
If there is something that negligently causes harm, unreasonably causes harm, there is a remedy in California.
I would also note that if it does not cause harm, there is no Bivens remedy, because Congress in the PLRA has said you cannot bring any claim if you are a prisoner in Federal court unless it involves physical harm.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Do you want us to hold that there is no Bivens action in California?
Is that -- is that what our opinion is going to say?
Mr. Franklin: I think the opinion could be as it was in Malesko, there is no Bivens action because there are alternative remedies.
We think that holding in Malesko would apply everywhere.
Everybody has -- every State has a negligence cause of action.
And I think one thing that crystallized the argument for me is the colloquy between Justice Scalia and -- and my friend, where I think there was an admission that what they are actually seeking is a blanket cause of action to account for any possible instance in which there is an inadequate remedy.
I think it goes even further.
I think they are asking for a blanket cause of action if somebody can hypothesize an interest -- and issue, and even further than that, even if we can't hypothesize it, maybe somewhere along the line something could happen.
We think that's a -- a flipping, a turning Bivens on its head.
Bivens is a narrow remedy that is only allowed If those circumstances arise they when it is necessary.
can be dealt with at that time.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Do you know if any of these Bivens claims have been pled in the alternative, that is the Bivens remedy, but alternatively State law?
Mr. Franklin: Yes, that does happen, Your Honor.
And it happens I think relatively frequently.
But in these circumstances we would expect if the Court rules our way that there would be in fact resort to what are not only adequate, but superior State law remedies, and that Bivens would then be reserved for another day if something happened that might implicate it.
If there are no further questions--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Is there diversity in this case?
Mr. Franklin: --There may be.
I think -- I think he alleged that there was.
We would agree with the other side that the domicile of a -- of a prisoner at least in the circuits is determined by where the prisoner had been before they were in prison, and I think this particular prisoner had been somewhere other than California.
I can't -- I can't say about the -- the mounting -- controversy but probably.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: So you -- ou said there was a statute of limitations problem with starting new.
Mr. Franklin: Yes.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: What about if there is diversity--
Mr. Franklin: Well, the case was dismissed.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: --that's allowing an amendment.
Mr. Franklin: The case was dismissed, Your Honor, and it was appealed only on the ground of a Bivens claim.
So if that is rejected, there is no more case.
There is nothing to amend.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
The case is submitted.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Justice Breyer has our opinion this morning in Case 10-1104, Minneci versus Pollard.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: A famous case called Bivens versus Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, this Court held that a federal agent’s violation of the Fourth Amendment gives rise to a cause of action for damages against a federal government employee, namely, the one who violated the Fourth Amendment and caused some harm.
Subsequently, this Court held that a government employee's violation of the Eighth Amendment and sometimes the Fifth Amendment can also give rise to a cause of action for damages against the government employee.
But the Court has also held in various other circumstances, the Eighth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, the First Amendment do not give rise to a Bivens type action for damages.
Well, the question before us is whether a prisoner can bring a Bivens action for damages when the prisoner seeks to bring an Eighth Amendment claim based upon prison officials' deliberate indifference to the harm caused by their improper medical care, he says that violates the Eighth Amendment, and when the prisoner brings that claim not against a government employee but against a private employee of a private company that manages a federal prison.
We conclude that in these circumstances, he cannot, not.
We cannot read the Constitution as providing a Bivens remedy in those circumstances.
Our basic reason is that in this kind of case, the prisoner does not really need this kind of federal remedy for a state tort law provides the prisoner with an adequate remedy.
In an earlier case, Wilkie v. Robbins, we said that we would decide whether to imply a Bivens action from the Constitution through a two-step test.
The first step, we said, consists of asking whether any alternative existing process for protecting a constitutional interest amounts to a convincing reason for the Judicial Branch to refrain from providing a new and freestanding damage remedy, i.e., the Bivens action.
In this instance, we stop at that first step.
State tort law provides this prisoner with a damage remedy for the kinds of injury that he claims he suffered.
The existence of that remedy in the circumstance should deter constitutional violation.
It should also provide adequate compensation to the victim and we are aware of no special reasons to imply the existence of an additional Bivens remedy and so, we don’t do so.
We explain our reasons in greater detail in our opinion.
We discuss the contrary arguments and we leave for a future day, the determination of whether we should imply a Bivens remedy should there arise other First -- Eighth Amendment cases which unlike the cases of the kind before us, state tort law does not provide so adequate a remedy.
We reverse the contrary determination by the Ninth Circuit.
Justice Scalia has filed a concurring opinion joined by Justice Thomas, and Justice Ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion.