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Leeke v. Timmerman

Supreme Court of the United States

November 16, 1981, Decided

No. 80-2077

Opinion

 [*84]   [***66]   [**69]  Petitioners, state correctional officials, seek review of a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit finding petitioners in violation of 42 U. S. C. § 1983 for opposing respondents' application for an arrest warrant. We grant the motion of respondents for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and the petition for writ of certiorari and reverse on the basis of our decision in Linda R. S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614 (1973).

Respondents were prison inmates  [***67]  in the Central Correctional Institution in Columbia, S. C., at the time of a prison uprising in August 1973. Respondents contend that during the uprising they were unnecessarily beaten by prison guards. Respondent Timmerman sought criminal arrest warrants against four prison guards. In support of his action, Timmerman presented sworn statements to a Magistrate along with alleged "confidential information" from an employee at the prison who purportedly investigated the incident and concluded that respondents were victimized by the prison guards. Although a subsequent hearing in the Federal District Court indicated [****4]  that the information provided by Timmerman was "suspect at best," it provided sufficient evidence to convince the state-court Magistrate that probable cause existed for issuance of arrest warrants against the prison guards. The Magistrate informed the legal adviser to the South Carolina Department of Corrections of his intent to issue the warrants and the legal adviser relayed this information to the prison Warden.

In an effort to have the criminal action against the correctional officers dropped, the legal adviser and Warden met with the County Sheriff, Deputy Attorney, and State Solicitor. At the meeting, the State Solicitor reviewed the facts and stated that there would be no indictment against three of the accused guards, but that he was  [**70]  unsure whether an indictment  [*85]  would be sought against the fourth guard. As a result of the meeting, the State Solicitor wrote a letter to the Magistrate requesting that the warrants not be issued. The Solicitor also stated that he intended to ask the State Law Enforcement Division to conduct an investigation concerning the charges made against the officers involved; the Magistrate did not issue the warrants and no state  [****5]  investigation was initiated.

Respondents subsequently filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina contending, among other claims, that petitioners conspired in bad faith to block the issuance of the arrest warrants for the prosecution of the prison guards. The District Court concluded that petitioners denied respondents their right to "a meaningful ability to set in motion the governmental machinery because [petitioners' activities] stopped the machinery unlawfully, not in a proper way, as for example, upon a valid determination of lack of probable cause." 1 Although the State Solicitor and the Magistrate were found to be immune from damages, the District Court concluded that the legal adviser to the prisons and the Director of the Department of Corrections were liable for their actions in requesting the State Solicitor to discourage issuance of the warrants. Respondents were awarded $ 3,000 in compensatory damages, $ 1,000 in punitive damages and attorney's fees against the two petitioners.

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454 U.S. 83 *; 102 S. Ct. 69 **; 70 L. Ed. 2d 65 ***; 1981 U.S. LEXIS 144 ****; 50 U.S.L.W. 3399

LEEKE, DIRECTOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL. v. TIMMERMAN ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition: Certiorari granted; 639 F.2d 783, reversed.

CORE TERMS

arrest warrant, issuance, respondents', prison guard

Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Standing, General Overview, Criminal Law & Procedure, Commencement of Criminal Proceedings, Arrests, Civil Procedure, Parties, Intervention, Governments, State & Territorial Governments, Employees & Officials, Warrants, Search & Seizure, Search Warrants, Issuance by Neutral & Detached Magistrate