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Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules that Georgia prison officer was entitled to summary judgment on inmate’s claim that officer violated his Eighth Amendment rights

On July 24, 2020, in Mosley v. Zachery, No. 17-14631, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a summary judgment in favor of the state prison officer defendant in a Title 28 § 1983 civil rights case brought by a Georgia state inmate.  The plaintiff alleged that the prison officer violated his rights under the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishments, by failing to immediately segregate the plaintiff so that he was protected from another inmate who had allegedly threatened to kill him. The plaintiff claimed he was subsequently attacked and injured by the other inmate. The Eleventh Circuit acknowledged that prison officials have a duty to “take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates,” including “protect[ing] prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners,” quoting from Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-833 (1994). However, the Court observed that for an Eighth Amendment violation to occur in a prison-condition case, the defendant’s state of mind must be proved to one of “deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety.”  The Eleventh Circuit concluded that given that the attack occurred only “moments” after the threat was reported to the defendant officer, she did not act unreasonably in telling the plaintiff she would look into the matter and ordering him back to his cell for a routine head count (the defendant and his attacker were not cellmates and their cells were on different floors of the honors dorm).

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