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Negligence, Due Process and the Prisoner

NCJ Number
New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement Volume: 13 Issue: 1 Dated: (Winter 1987) Pages: 11-44
S S Small
Date Published
34 pages
This article criticizes the U.S. Supreme Court's due process jurisprudence applied to inmate lawsuits and advises attorneys on the pleading and practice of due process cases.
In recent years, inmates have flooded Federal courts with tort claims under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. - 1983, which enables a State inmate to sue in Federal court. The U.S. Supreme Court has acted to stem the tide of such cases. In Daniels v. Williams (1986) and Davidson v. Cannon (1985), the Court held that fair procedures which protect a citizen's substantive due process cannot be violated by mere negligent behavior. A procedural due process deprivation under the 14th amendment must be deliberate and constitute an affirmative abuse of power. The problems with this ruling are that the Court must scrutinize each case to determine whether an alleged injury is caused by 'more than negligence' and there is a new burden on inmates to draft their pleadings carefully. The rulings promise to aggravate rather than mitigate the flood of inmate cases, since the courts will be called upon to decide the degree and character of abuse inflicted by corrections officials on inmates in particular cases. 300 footnotes.


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