Reasonableness as Corrections Reform in Kingsley v. Hendrickson
Author: Jordan A. Shannon
In Kingsley v. Hendrickson, Kingsley brought an action against his jailers, alleging excessive force in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Kingsley sought reversal of a verdict for respondents on the grounds that the district court’s jury instruction incorrectly implied that the officers’ use of force should be evaluated according to a subjective standard of reasonableness. Ultimately, Kingsley’s suit prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve a circuit split regarding whether an objective or subjective standard should apply to due process claims involving unreasonable force against pretrial detainees.
Section II of this note explains the facts of the case, the positions of the parties, and the lower court’s holding. Section III describes the applicable law regarding claims of excessive force against free citizens versus convicted persons, and discusses the prior appellate court decisions concerning the relevant constitutional standard for pretrial detainees. Section IV sets forth the Supreme Court’s holding and reasoning for its decision. Lastly, Section V examines the policy considerations underlying the detention of pretrial defendants and the need to hold corrections officers accountable for using unreasonable force, ultimately suggesting that an objective standard may increase accountability.