- Case Summary

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 27th Nov 2001
Wordcount: 542 words


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Legal Case Summary

Summary: Determined the accountability for constitutional violations of private entities under federal contracts.


John E. Malesko, an inmate incarcerated at a halfway house operated by the Correctional Services Corporation (CSC), brought a suit against the corporation. Malesko alleged that, contrary to the Bureau of Prisons policy, CSC's cost-cutting measures resulted in discontinuing the prescription of his heart medication and encouraging him to use stairs instead of elevators. Following a heart attack he suffered climbing the stairs, Malesko sued CSC for a violation of his 8th Amendment rights.


The legal issue raises the question of whether a cause of action can be implied directly under the US Constitution against federal private contractors for constitutional deprivations. It necessitates establishing the conditions under which a federal contractor, in this case a private corporation, can be held liable for the actions that indirectly violate constitutional rights of a federally protected individual.


This case primarily reinforces the Supreme Court's tendency to limit the contexts in which Bivens remedies can be applied. It underlines the reluctance of the Court to extend Bivens to new contexts or new classes of defendants.

The decision in the Malesko case has contributed to the ongoing debate on private entities undertaking traditionally governmental functions and the constitutional responsibilities that come with this role.


The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled in favor of CSC. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, argued that extending Bivens remedies to reach private corporations was a significant step with uncertain implications. A Bivens action is not supposed to be a 'proper vehicle for altering an entity's policy,' and legislative, not judicial, action is the appropriate means to resolve such concerns. Therefore, Malesko could not make a Bivens claim against the CSC.


  • Correctional Services Corporation v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61 (2001)
  • Chemerinsky, E. (2001) 'Correctional Services Corp. v Malesko', American Bar Association.

Journalist Brief

In simple terms, the Malesko case was about whether a private company, hired by the government, can be held responsible for violating someone's constitutional rights. John Malesko, a prisoner who was under the care of the Correctional Services Corporation, sued the company arguing they had put cost-cutting measures ahead of his health, leading to a heart attack. However, the Supreme Court decided in favor of the company, holding that Malesko couldn't use existing laws to sue them.


What was the Malesko case about?

Answer: The case was about whether a private entity, contracted by the government, could be held accountable for violations of constitutional rights.

What was the decision of the Supreme Court?

Answer: The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Correctional Services Corporation, stating that Malesko couldn't use a Bivens claim against them.

What does the Malesko case mean for private entities in governmental roles?

Answer: The case highlights the legal complications when private entities undertake governmental functions and the limitations in holding them accountable for constitutional violations.

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