( 08–10914 )
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559 U. S. ____ (2010)



on petition for writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fourth circuit

No. 08–10914. Decided February 22, 2010

Justice Thomas , with whom Justice Scalia joins, concurring in the judgment.

I agree with the Court that the Fourth Circuit’s Eighth Amendment analysis is inconsistent with Hudson v. McMillian , 503 U. S. 1 (1992) . But I continue to believe that Hudson was wrongly decided. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U. S. 89, 95 (2007) (dissenting opinion); Farmer v. Brennan , 511 U. S. 825, 858 (1994) (opinion concurring in judgment); Helling v. McKinney , 509 U. S. 25, 37 (1993) (dissenting opinion); Hudson , supra , at 17 (dissenting opinion).

“At the time the Eighth Amendment was ratified, the word ‘punishment’ referred to the penalty imposed for the commission of a crime.” Helling , supra , at 38 ( Thomas , J., dissenting) . The Court adhered to this understanding until 1976, when it declared in Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U. S. 97 , that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause also extends to prison conditions not imposed as part of a criminal sentence. See generally Hudson , supra , at 18–20 ( Thomas , J., dissenting); Farmer , supra , at 861 ( Thomas, J., concurring in judgment). To limit this abrupt expansion of the Clause, the Court specified that its new interpretation of the Eighth Amendment should not extend to every deprivation a prisoner suffers, but instead should apply “ only [to] that narrow class of deprivations involving ‘serious’ injury inflicted by prison officials acting with a culpable state of mind.” Hudson , supra , at 20 (T homas , J., dissenting) (citing Estelle , supra , at 106); see generally Wilson v. Seiter , 501 U. S. 294, 298 (1991) .

Hudson , however, discarded the requirement of serious injury. Building upon Estelle’ s mislaid foundation, the Court concluded that force, rather than injury, is the relevant inquiry, and that a prisoner who alleges excessive force at the hands of prison officials and suffers nothing more than de minimis injury can state a claim under the Eighth Amendment . Hudson thus turned the Eighth Amendment into “a National Code of Prison Regulation,” 503 U. S., at 28 (T homas , J., dissenting); Farmer , 511 U. S., at 859 (T homas , J., concurring in judgment), with “federal judges [acting as] superintendents of prison conditions nationwide,” id. , at 860. Although neither the Constitution nor our precedents require this result, no party to this case asks us to overrule Hudson . Accordingly, I concur in the Court’s judgment.