By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - A federal appeals court said proof of sadism is not needed to hold prison officers liable for excessive force under the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment, as it revived an Oregon state prisoner's civil damages lawsuit over his treatment.
By a 3-0 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said on Thursday a trial judge erred in requiring Sean Hoard, an inmate at the Snake River Correctional Institution, to show jurors it was more likely than not that officers were "having or deriving pleasure from extreme cruelty" while beating him.
"Excessive force under the Eighth Amendment does not require proof that an officer enjoyed or otherwise derived pleasure from his or her use of force," Circuit Judge Richard Paez wrote for a three-judge panel, which ordered a new trial for Hoard. "Sadism is not - and has never been - an element of excessive force."
Hoard had sued over a Dec. 21, 2012 incident in which he claimed an officer slammed his face into a concrete floor, resulting in bleeding, and that he did not resist because he feared additional force. The defendants said the force used was "minimal" and that Hoard had been combative.
A spokeswoman for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, whose office defended the prison officers, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Joshua Hafenbrack, a lawyer who argued Hoard's appeal, declined to comment.
Hoard said he was beaten after he had smashed a razor intended for personal use, ostensibly after discovering that it did not work. Prison officials disputed that claim.
The appeals court returned the case to U.S. District Judge Anna Brown in Portland, Oregon.
The Snake River prison is in Ontario, Oregon, about 390 miles (628 km) east-southeast of Portland and on the Idaho border.
The case is Hoard v Hartman et al, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 18-35738.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)