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Freezing Temperature Violates Eighth Amendment

Four prisoners at the Iowa State Reformatory segregation unit were sent outdoors to a recreation area while prison guards searched their living unit for weapons. The temperature was sub-freezing with a significant wind chill factor. The prisoners requested not to go outside. They were placed outdoors with only coats even though hats and gloves were available in the immediate area. They were held in these conditions for between one hour and one hour and forty five minutes. The prisoners filed suit claiming their eighth amendment rights had been violated. The district court agreed and ruled in their favor, awarding each prisoner $75.00 in damages plus costs.

Prison officials appealed and the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the lower court in its entirety. The appeals court held the district court's findings were not erroneous and that the prisoners had been subjected to an extreme deprivation which denied them "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." See: Gordon v. Faber, 973 F.2d 686 (8th Cir. 1992).

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Related legal case

Gordon v. Faber

Gordon v. Faber, 973 F.2d 686 (8th Cir. 08/31/1992)


[2] No. 91-3731

[4] filed: August 31, 1992.


[6] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.


[8] Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellant was Kristin Wright Ensign of Des Moines, Iowa. The names of Bonnie J. Campbell and Kristin W. Ensign of Des Moines, Iowa, appear on the brief of the appellant.

[9] Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellee was Anna Wirt O'Flaherty of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The names of Anna Wirt O'Flaherty and Thomas J. O'Flaherty of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, appear on the brief of the appellees.

[10] Before McMILLIAN and Bowman, Circuit Judges, and Eisele,*fn* Senior District Judge.

[11] Author: Mcmillian

[12] McMILLIAN, Circuit Judge.

[13] Lieutenant Steve Faber, a security officer at the Iowa Men's Reformatory in Anamosa, Iowa, appeals from a final judgment entered in the United States District Court*fn1 for the Northern District of Iowa, after a bench trial, finding him liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating the Eighth Amendment rights of inmates Kinsey Gordon, William Lee Carr, Kevin Daniel Ross, and Troy A. Mintle. Gordon v. Faber, No. C 90-0044, (N.D. Iowa Nov. 5, 1991). The district court ordered appellant to pay damages in the amount of $75.00 per appellee. For reversal, appellant argues that the district court clearly erred in finding that his actions met the objective standard of Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment. We remanded this case to the district court for the limited purpose of clarifying its finding as to whether the objective component of cruel and unusual punishment had been met in light of recent Supreme Court decisions, Hudson v. McMillian, 117 L. Ed. 2d 156, 112 S. Ct. 995 (1992) (Hudson), and Wilson v. Seiter, 115 L. Ed. 2d 271, 111 S. Ct. 2321 (1991) (Wilson). Gordon v. Faber, 963 F.2d 187 (8th Cir. 1992).

[14] The district court made supplemental findings and again concluded that appellees' Eighth Amendment rights had been violated. Gordon v. Faber, No. C 90-0044, (N.D. Iowa June 25, 1992) (supplemental findings upon remand). For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

[15] The facts of this case are set forth in detail in the district court's opinions.*fn2 The following is a brief summary. On February 27, 1990, appellant ordered all of the inmates in a segregated area, Living Unit D-third floor (LUD-3) of the Iowa Men's Reformatory, to be sent outdoors for exercise while guards searched LUD-3 for a weapon which was rumored to be present in that living area.*fn3 Because of their segregated status, the LUD-3 inmates were required to exercise in enclosed pens, where exercise was limited to basic calisthenics and walking. The exercise pens, measuring seven feet by twenty-one feet, provided no protection from the elements. The temperature outdoors that day was sub-freezing and the wind chill factor was significant.*fn4 Some of the inmates, including appellees, requested permission to forego exercise due to the cold weather. Their requests were denied. The inmates were provided hip-length lined denim coats. Each coat had pockets and a collar, but no hood. Despite the cold, appellant ordered the guards to deny all requests for hats and gloves, even though such items were readily available in the immediate area. Appellees were kept outdoors under these conditions for periods of time ranging from one hour to one hour and forty-five minutes. Upon returning indoors, many of the inmates, including appellees, complained about frostbite but were not seen by a nurse until several hours later.

[16] The district court concluded that appellant acted with "deliberate indifference" when he ordered the LUD-3 inmates outdoors without hats and gloves on February 27, 1990, slip op. at 7-8 (Nov. 5, 1991), and that the deprivation was "extreme" and denied the "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Slip op. at 2-4 (June 25, 1992). We hold that the district court's findings are not clearly erroneous and that they support the Conclusion that appellees' Eighth Amendment rights were violated. See Hudson, 112 S. Ct. at 999-1000; Wilson, 111 S. Ct. at 2324, 2326-27.

[17] We adopt the district court's thorough and well-reasoned analysis of this case. Slip op. at 4-9 (June 25, 1992). Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

[18] Disposition

[19] Affirmed


Judges Footnotes


[20] *fn* The Honorable G. Thomas Eisele, Senior United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas, sitting by designation.


Opinion Footnotes


[21] *fn1 The Honorable John A. Jarvey, Chief Magistrate Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, presiding by agreement of the parties. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

[22] *fn2 Gordon v. Faber, No. C 90-0044, slip op. at 2-5 (N.D. Iowa Nov. 5, slip op. at 2-4 (June 25, 1992).

[23] *fn3 Before the search of LUD-3, appellant also had the inmates strip-searched for the weapon.

[24] *fn4 Appellant testified at trial that he called the prison's powerhouse on the morning of February 27, 1990, and was told the temperature outside was 33 degrees Fahrenheit. The powerhouse log revealed, however, that the temperature that morning never reached 33 degrees. The district court did not believe that appellant ever called the powerhouse that morning. Id. at 4 (Nov. 5, 1991).