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Hudson v. McMillian

Prison Inmate Claims Beating Violated His Civil Rights, High Court Defines Force Used On Inmates, Excessive Use Of Force Against Inmates Violates Societal Standards


Keith J. Hudson


Jack McMillian, et al.

Petitioner's Claim

Proof of serious injury is not required to prove a claim under the Eighth Amendment of cruel and unusual punishment.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Alvin J. Bronstein

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Harry McCall, Jr.

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor (writing for the Court), William H. Rehnquist, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting

Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

25 February 1992


A petitioner claiming that excessive force constituted cruel and unusual punishment does not have to suffer a serious injury to prevail in the case.


The decision extended Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment to prisoners who are beaten, even if the prisoner does not suffer a serious injury.


The Hudson decision made it possible for incarcerated persons to make Eighth Amendment claims of excessive force without alleging the infliction of a serious physical injury. This gave prisoners with such claims another avenue into the federal court system, giving them an option between state and federal court. A prisoner may decide to forego suing in state court if the laws in federal court are more favorable.

Related Cases

  • Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976).
  • Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337 (1981).
  • Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312 (1986).
  • Wisniewski v. Kennard, 901 F.2d 1276 (1990).
  • Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294 (1994).


West's Encyclopedia of American Law, Vol. 7, p. 373. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing, 1998.

Further Readings

  • Call, Jack E. "The Supreme Court and Prisoners' Rights." Federal Probation, March 1995, p. 36.
  • New York Times, February 26, 1992.
  • Simon, James F. The Center Holds: The Power Struggle Inside the Rehnquist Court. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.
  • Smolla, Rodney A. A Year In the Life of the Supreme Court. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994