U.S. Second Circuit - The FindLaw 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

August 2015 Archives

You think it would go without saying: corrections officers cannot sexually abuse inmates without violating those inmates' rights. Apparently not. The Second Circuit felt the need to restate the obvious after a district court tossed two inmates' suit, which alleged that they were fondled by correctional officers in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Such abuse is clearly unconstitutional, the Second Circuit wrote. Further, it emphasized that the Circuit's Eighth Amendment precedents must be applied broadly to comport with evolving "societal standards of decency" regarding inmate sexual abuse.

Every first year law student is familiar with the pleading requirements established by Iqbal v. Ashcroft. Under Iqbal, a complaint must make facially plausible factual allegations that the defendant is liable for misconduct. For some, Iqbal is a betrayal of permissive pleading requirements; for others, it is a necessary protection against meritless litigation.

That holding has been in tension with previous Supreme Court rulings on employment discrimination. Under those precedents, only minimal evidence "suggesting an inference" of discrimination is needed in pleadings. The Second Circuit attempted to reconcile those precedents, holding that Iqbal applies to employment discrimination complaints but does not affect the benefits of the doubt given to plaintiffs by other precedent.