Preface to the Fifth Edition 4 results
- This book is designed to provide a concise but complete introduction to the topic of litigation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As discussed in the Introduction, the “Section 1983” cause of action is the primary vehicle for redressing federal constitutional violations by state and local officials. Litigation under § 1983 continues to be robust. In addition, § 1983 has established itself as the focus of separate courses in law schools and is a major component in courses on Civil Rights, Federal Courts, and Constitutional Tort Litigation. It is my hope that this book will provide law students, lawyers, judges, and their law clerks, with an introduction to and a better understanding of this topic.
- Finally, this Nutshell is not intended to be a sourcebook for cases and articles on § 1983 litigation so much as it is intended to provide a broad outline, primarily descriptive and partly critical. I have therefore focused mainly on Supreme Court decisions and have only occasionally made use of lower federal court decisions or state court decisions. The field, moreover, is a rapidly changing one. Final interpretation of recent decisions and legislation in the area still lies in the future. But I have done what I can to alert the reader to potential problems on the horizon. I hope this modest effort is successful at what it attempts to do.
- Because much of what is difficult and interesting about § 1983 litigation has to do with issues of procedure, remedies, jurisdiction, and federal courts law, I have emphasized these issues. In addition, although § 1983 got its modern start in the civil rights revolution of the 1960’s, it is (for reasons explained in the text) no longer exclusively a “civil rights” statute. It is for that reason that I have somewhat de-emphasized discussion of the substance of the various underlying constitutional rights that § 1983 can be used to enforce. I have also included a chapter on constitutional litigation against federal officials, even though such suits are not controlled by § 1983.
- Although each of the chapters stands more or less on its own and can be read independently of the others, two caveats are in order. First, much of § 1983 litigation is an extended footnote to the Supreme Court’s decision in Monroe v. Pape (1961), discussed in Chapter 2. It would be difficult for someone new to the subject to get a feel for § 1983 without first understanding the impact of , which is recounted in that chapter. Second, the whole of § 1983 may actually be somewhat less daunting than the sum of its parts. That is, an understanding of any one of the particular topics that is the subject of a separate chapter might best be achieved by a complete rather than a selected reading of this book.
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Chapter 1. Introduction 17 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Section 1983 is the primary vehicle today for obtaining damages and equitable relief against state and local officials who violate the Constitution. In addition, the statute allows for certain kinds of relief against local governments, and it provides a remedy for violations of federal statutes by state and local actors. Section 1983 actions run the gamut from police abuse and prisoner’s rights litigation, to claims for takings of property and challenges to state and local regulations on pre-emption grounds, to school desegregation and other institutional reform litigation. It makes up a growing area of the law. Critics complain of a “flood” of litigation produced by § 1983, but others have doubted the flood’s extent. But whoever is right, the number of filings under the statute remains impressive.
- Section 1983 was a product of Reconstruction and the fundamental alterations in state-federal relations that accompanied it. Enacted in 1871, the statute enabled victims of unconstitutional state action to sue the wrongdoing “person” in an action at law or in equity. Only slightly modified from its original version, the current statute (codified at 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983) now provides in pertinent part:
- Almost immediately on arrival, however, § 1983 entered into a long period of dormancy. According to some estimates of reported cases, litigants invoked the statute fewer than two dozen times over the course of the 50 years following its 1871 enactment. The reasons for § 1983’s dormancy are not entirely clear. The Reconstruction-era amendments with which § 1983 was associated were given a narrow interpretation not long after their ratification. Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873); Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883). Perhaps, therefore, § 1983 was little used because the Bill of Rights remained inapplicable against the states until the Warren Court of the 1950’s and ’60’s began in earnest the process of “selective incorporation” of such rights through the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. And at first, those Bill of Rights provisions that were applicable against the states were litigated mostly in criminal contexts, and as a shield to punishment—not as a sword invoked...
- Section 1983 came after this initial wave of federal civil rights legislation, and was designed to open up the federal courts by giving litigants a direct federal cause of action against those who, acting “under color of” law, deprived them of their constitutional rights. The statute was one feature—and perhaps the least controversial feature—of a larger statute popularly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act. Distinguished primarily by its provisions (now codified at 42 U.S.C.A. § 1985(3)) that purported to reach private conspiracies to deny persons equal protection of the laws and to deprive them of their constitutional rights, the overall statute was Congress’s response to widespread resistance to Reconstruction in the South by private actors, and by state and local law enforcement officials, legislatures, and courts. Unlike the statutes that preceded it, § 1983 seemed to give private litigants a federal court remedy of first resort, rather than a remedy that would be available only in...
- A different but less obvious explanation for § 1983’s dormancy may lie in the fact that the Supreme Court narrowly construed the “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by” the Constitution to which § 1983 spoke. For example, the Court concluded that the right against impairment of contractual obligations under the Contracts Clause was not a right that could be vindicated in an action under § 1983. Carter v. Greenhow, 114 U.S. 317 (1885). In addition, the Court concluded that a claim that State legislation violated the dormant Commerce Clause did not implicate a “right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution.” Bowman v. Chicago & N.W. Ry., 115 U.S. 611 (1885) (interpreting parallel appellate statute). Some argue that the subset of rights “secured by” the Constitution involved only a narrow category of civil rights that were said by the Court to be directly secured by the Constitution, in the sense of taking their origin in it. It did not include, for example, ordinary...
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Chapter 17. Chapter 17. Bivens and Federal Officer Liability 40 results (showing 5 best matches)
- There are, however, a few differences between § 1983 and . First, some of the remedial or procedural gap filling that goes on in § 1983 litigation is made with reference to 42 U.S.C.A. § 1988. The Court has read § 1988 as requiring courts to look to state law when federal law is silent in such areas as statutes of limitations and the “survival” of a § 1983 claim. See Chapter 12. Section 1988 does not govern actions, however, and the Court has rather consistently applied uniform federal common law to fill such silences. Thus, in a action, survival of the claim is governed by a federal judge-made rule in favor of survival, state law to the contrary notwithstanding. . By contrast, as discussed in Chapter 12, the rule for survival of § 1983 cases is presumptively grounded in state law. Federal common law also supplies missing statutes of limitations for actions, but here, it usually adopts the relevant limitations period of the relevant state. Section 1983 ...a similar result, but...
- In addition, attorney’s fees are probably not available in actions, although they would be in § 1983 suits. In federal courts, fee shifting is ordinarily unavailable in the absence of a statute, or unless the losing party litigated in bad faith. No statute allows for fee shifting against the individual officer against whom the action is brought. Section 1988 (see Chapter 11) is plainly inapplicable to actions. Unus v. Kane, 565 F.3d 103 (4th Cir.2009). Under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), however, fees are available against the United States when a plaintiff has prevailed in litigation in any action brought against the United States “not sounding in tort,” and when its defense was not “substantially justified.” 28 U.S.C.A. § 2412(d)(1)(A). The EAJA further defines suits against the United States as including suits against federal officers in their “official capacity.” Id. at § 2412(d)(2). But given the individual liability theory of damages actions under ...not a... ...in...
- actions are not subject to an-exhaustion-of-administrative remedies requirement, unless specifically required by a relevant federal statute. For example, prior to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA), the Supreme Court had held that actions brought by prisoners against federal prison officials were not subject to an exhaustion requirement because no statute then required exhaustion for federal prisoners (unlike for state prisoners). McCarthy v. Madigan, 503 U.S. 140 (1992). But courts have read the PLRA as imposing a new exhaustion requirement for federal prisoners as well as state prisoners in suits “brought with respect to prison conditions.” 42 U.S.C.A. § 1997e(a); Ghana v. Holland, 226 F.3d 175 (3d Cir.2000). They have done so by reading the language of the PLRA which refers to suits brought by “a prisoner” under § 1983 “or any other Federal law” as including suits by federal prisoners grounded on a .... Hawk, 127 F.3d 1263 (10th Cir.1997). As a result, the limits...in
- Federal officers are not ordinarily suable under § 1983 because they typically do not act under color of state law. But a parallel system of remedies for constitutional violations—not unlike that enforced by the courts under § 1983—applies to federal officers. The right of action is not congressionally created, however. The Supreme Court has instead fashioned an implied right of action for damages directly under the Constitution and the general federal question statute—28 U.S.C.A. § 1331—that can be brought in federal court against the wrongdoing federal officer personally.
- remedy is sometimes referred to as an example of “constitutional common law”—a default rule that is not altogether constitutionally compelled. Congress, therefore, has a role in shaping the contours of the remedy. The Court has accordingly denied a remedy when Congress has put in place a set of comprehensive remedies of its own that provide meaningful vindication of the rights in question. In Bush v. Lucas, 462 U.S. 367 (1983), a action was denied to a whistleblower who claimed that he had been demoted and defamed because of his free speech activities. Although the Court purported to find “special factors counseling hesitation,” its decision more likely reflects the Court’s approach to allowing displacement of a
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Chapter 2. Chapter 2. Monroe and the Modern § 1983 55 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Justice Douglas’s opinion for the Court was significant in a number of respects. It dusted off § 1983 after a long period of relative disuse and indicated that governmental actors could be personally liable thereunder for the injuries they inflict when they violate a person’s constitutional rights. “Section 1983,” stated the Court, “should be read against the background of tort liability that makes a man responsible for the natural consequences of his actions.” The Court achieved this goal of personal officer liability through two important rulings. First, it held that Monroe’s § 1983 remedy was “supplemental” to any remedy that he might have under state law. He therefore did not need to exhaust available state remedies as a precondition to bringing suit in federal court under § 1983. Second, it held that the police officers’ action was action “under color of” law within the meaning of § 1983, even if what they did also happened to be in violation of state law. Although these two...
- Although § 1983 imposes no exhaustion of remedies requirement, that does not mean that a litigant might not choose to pursue them anyway. But the decision to do so may effectively foreclose the ability later to obtain relief under § 1983 in federal court. The main reason has to do with doctrines of preclusion. As discussed in full in Chapter 14, a litigant who voluntarily pursues her state law claims in state court while saving her federal § 1983 claim for federal court may find herself barred from raising a § 1983 claim later because of rules against claim splitting. Migra v. Warren City School Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75 (1984). See Chapter 14.B. Similarly, pursuing state judicial remedies or administrative remedies that are judicial in nature may preclude a plaintiff from relitigating factual issues that were found adversely to her in a state administrative hearing. University of Tennessee v. Elliott, 478 U.S. 788 (1986). See Chapter 14.A.2. Pursuing state remedies is... ...in...
- Two aspects of the Court’s decision in continue to govern § 1983 litigation. First, § 1983 does not usually require victims of unconstitutional state action to exhaust state remedies that might be available to them before bringing suit under § 1983. Second, an official can act “under color of” law within the meaning of § 1983 and be subject to personal liability under the statute, even when he violates state law and commits acts that state law would not authorize or sanction. Thus, most unconstitutional behavior of state actors taken in the course of employment can potentially subject them to personal liability under § 1983. Although private actors, in contrast to governmental actors, ordinarily cannot violate the Constitution because they do not engage in “state action,” they sometimes may be liable under § 1983 when they act in concert with officials or when their acts are otherwise fairly attributable to the government. (A third conclusion of ...under § 1983—has since been...
- One might have imagined a different approach to § 1983 from that taken in . As an alternative, one might posit a scheme in which it was necessary—before being able to invoke the federal § 1983 remedy—to exhaust or try out state remedies first. The litigant might then be allowed to return to federal trial court if meaningful relief were unavailable or inadequate under state law. Or, the plaintiff might be allowed to resort to federal trial court as an initial matter if she could show affirmatively in her individual case either that there was no judicial remedy available in the state courts (in theory or in fact) or that there was a problem of state court prejudice that could be established at the outset of litigation. This exhaustion/inadequacy of state process model was one that largely characterized the other civil rights statutes of the Reconstruction era that preceded § 1983, including pretrial habeas corpus and civil rights removal. ..., concluded that § 1983 adopted no such...
- But it is open to question how often challenges to such takings could be pursued in a suit under § 1983. If a state court has taken property of a litigant through its interpretation of state law, direct review in the U.S. Supreme Court would be the appropriate course to pursue, as in itself. Even if review were denied, a subsequent § 1983 suit challenging unconstitutional state judicial action would encounter questions of preclusion on certain matters. See Chapter 14.A. And such a suit may also be subject to jurisdictional barriers that prevent the loser in state court civil litigation from later complaining in federal court about an injury arising from the state court’s judgment. See Chapter 14.C. On the other hand, it is possible that another property owner—not a litigant in the decision that constituted a judicial taking—could bring an action under § 1983 if the state court’s decision would also operate as an
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Chapter 18. Jurisdiction and Procedure 72 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Section 1983 suits arise under federal law and therefore implicate a number of run-of-the-mill concerns common to all federal question litigation, including subject matter jurisdiction, venue, removal from state to federal court, and the bringing of pendent state-law claims and other supplemental actions. Section 1983 actions also require some attention to the niceties of pleading, especially with respect to “individual” versus “official capacity” suits. Finally, as with all suits brought in federal court, there are concerns of justiciability that must be satisfied—including the familiar requirements of standing to sue, ripeness, and mootness.
- Suits under § 1983 arise under federal law. Plaintiffs may therefore bring them in federal court under the general federal question statute, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1331, without regard to the amount in controversy. Section 1983 also has its own specialized jurisdictional provision, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1343(3). Section 1343(3) allows for federal court jurisdiction over any claim alleging a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution, and for violations (by state and local actors) of federal statutes, but only if the statute is one providing for “equal rights.” The federal question statute (§ 1331) is the broader of the two jurisdictional provisions and would therefore encompass any suit that fits within the contours of § 1983: all constitutional violations and violations of federal statutes, whether or not they relate to equal rights. Thus, there is no § 1983 case in which it is necessary to invoke § 1343(3), although litigants tend to invoke it when they can, along with § 1331, more out of...an
- How these decisions will impact § 1983 litigation remains uncertain. Shortly after , the Court held that a prisoner’s pro-se complaint alleging cruel and unusual prison conditions had satisfied Rule 8’s short, plain statement requirement. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007) (per curiam). The prisoner alleged that his removal from a particular medical treatment had “endangered his life,” that he was “still in need of treatment,” and that defendants “refused to provide treatment.” The Court rejected the argument that “specific facts” would be necessary to survive a 12(b)(6) motion, so long as the Complaint gave defendant “fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds on which it rests.” It is doubtful the Court in meant to exclude § 1983 claims in general from its applies in constitutional tort litigation. Perhaps ...whatever the minimum requirements of the Federal Rules in the wake of such cases, plaintiffs should probably be sure to articulate the individual elements of...
- Sometimes litigation comes too soon. The Court has considered as part of Article III’s case-or-controversy requirement that a case be “ripe” for judicial consideration before it can be heard. Ripeness is not typically a problem when a litigant seeks to redress past illegality under § 1983 in a damages action. Instead, ripeness tends to be a problem in the context of injunctive or declaratory relief. If, for example, matters have not come to the point that there is a live dispute between two parties, there may be no need for the judiciary to act. In addition, it may be harder to tell whether a plaintiff’s not-yet-ripe injury is sufficiently nongeneralized. To be sure, anticipatory § 1983 actions, whether for injunctive or declaratory relief, always involve some uncertainties—uncertainty about what the plaintiff’s future actions will be and uncertainty about what the official’s future actions will be. But some such uncertainty will have to be tolerated, unless § 1983 is to be...
- Accordingly, as discussed in Chapter 5, a party can bring a § 1983 suit for a state official’s violations of a federal welfare statute—a non-equal-rights statute. Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1 (1980). Section 1343(3), however, would not support federal jurisdiction, because it was and is limited to violations of “equal rights” statutes (in addition to covering all constitutional violations). And, once upon a time, § 1331 was unavailable if the claim fell below the then-requisite amount in controversy. Somewhat dubiously, therefore, the Court in concluded that there were some § 1983 claims—those for violations of non-equal-rights statutes—that, at the time, could only be brought in state court but not federal court.
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Chapter 14. Preclusion and § 1983 29 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Given the varied contexts in which § 1983 litigation can arise, a § 1983 lawsuit may often be precluded as to some issues or claims because of prior adjudication. For example, problems of issue preclusion may arise if the § 1983 plaintiff was previously a defendant in a state court criminal proceeding in which issues that are now the subject of her § 1983 challenge were decided against her. Similarly, a § 1983 plaintiff may face problems associated with claim preclusion if she previously brought suit in state court on state law grounds as to some aspect of the official action which she later challenges on federal grounds. Initial pursuit of state administrative remedies may sometimes compromise a later-filed § 1983 action as well.
- is explored in greater depth in Chapter 16, § C, it is important to note here its relationship to preclusion. First, ’s barrier applies whether or not the particular constitutional issue that is the basis for relief under § 1983 was actually litigated and lost in the state court trial that resulted in conviction. Second, also provides a basis for barring federal court relief whether or not the state court system would consider the issue to be precluded in a later action. And third, the limitation arguably applies whether or not the § 1983 plaintiff is currently in custody and thus able to bring a state or federal habeas action in which the issue might first be raised and the conviction brought into question. See Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749 (2004) (noting the issue is an open one). Thus, although itself is not a rule of preclusion, it poses a substantial barrier to federal court (re)litigation of certain federal questions in § 1983 actions brought by prisoners.
- State preclusion rules may make allowances for changes in incentives in the litigation of a particular issue, or differences in procedural opportunities that are presented in different rounds of litigation. But the basic message from is the same. If a state court, based on its own preclusion law, would preclude a litigant from re-raising an issue on which she had previously litigated and lost in a jurisdictionally valid state court proceeding, a federal court must do the same. Indeed, as discussed in § D, below, there may be additional principles that will prevent those who have been convicted from bringing damages actions over issues that were integral to a prior conviction. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Thus, other barriers may keep some § 1983 litigants from proceeding, even if, for some reason, state preclusion law would not.
- Other actions by a § 1983 plaintiff have the potential to bar his § 1983 claim as well. For example, a § 1983 plaintiff might contractually agree to dismiss his claim in exchange for the prosecution’s dropping of criminal charges arising out of the events giving rise to the § 1983 action. Such agreements are enforceable and are governed by federal, not state, law. Town of Newton v. Rumery, 480 U.S. 386 (1987). Provided such an agreement is voluntary rather than coerced, and does not suggest prosecutorial overreaching, a § 1983 defendant can seek to have the plaintiff’s claim dismissed, perhaps on summary judgment. E.g., Woods v. Rhodes, 994 F.2d 494 (8th Cir.1993). On the other hand, a guilty plea might not be issue preclusive in a later § 1983 suit as to all underlying constitutional issues, because nothing was actually litigated by entry of such a plea. Haring v. Prosise, 462 U.S. 306 (1983). But now, there is at least room to argue that might forestall some § 1983 suits following a
- Such an incentive is particularly problematic in a case such as in which the would-be § 1983 plaintiff also wished to pursue an employment discrimination claim under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In contrast to § 1983, Title VII actually exhaustion of available state administrative remedies (but gives them no preclusive effect in the later filed Title VII suit, so long as they remain unreviewed by state courts). In short, if a person in Elliott’s position wants to preserve a preclusion-free federal forum for his § 1983 claim, he needs to think seriously about whether he should pursue state administrative remedies, even though the latter may be a prerequisite to possible state-law claims and perhaps, as in itself, to other federal claims. Of course, if the “judicial in nature” administrative procedures are coercive (i.e., not plaintiff-initiated), the would-be § 1983 plaintiff may have no choice in the matter. Because of abstention doctrines associated with coercive...
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Chapter 11. Attorney’s Fees 48 results (showing 5 best matches)
- As a result of ’s disallowance of fee-shifting, a cloud was thrown over public law litigation. Without the incentive of fees in the event of success, there was a risk that rights might go underenforced under § 1983. Costs of litigation are often high and most lawyers are unwilling to work for psychic gratification alone. In addition, many would-be § 1983 plaintiffs are impecunious. Although contingent fee arrangements might be available in particular cases that resembled traditional tort cases (as in a case alleging the use of excessive force by the police), many of the rights that § 1983 serves to vindicate would not possess such allure in the legal marketplace. And many
- But later, in West Virginia University Hosp., Inc. v. Casey, 499 U.S. 83 (1991), the Court held that expert witness fees (in the six-figure range) incurred by the successful plaintiffs in a suit under § 1983, although “essential” to the litigation, were not recoverable under the Fees Act as then written. The Court’s reasoning was that two other statutes already covered the area: 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 1920 and 1821(b). These two statutes generally provide for taxing (to the losing party) various “costs” in federal court litigation, including expert witness fees, but limited recovery for experts to (then) $30 per day. The distinction between treatment of paralegal costs (which §§ 1920 and 1821(b) do not mention) and expert witnesses had been lost on lower courts, who had concluded that “the time spent by the expert is a substitute for lawyer time, just as paralegal time is” and that failure to allow for reimbursement would mean that the lawyer would do the work himself. remains the law in §
- The fee statute does not define what a reasonable fee is. The Supreme Court eventually concluded that the place to start in assessing the reasonableness of a fee award for a successful plaintiff “is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983). This calculation provides a “lodestar” figure, and there is a “strong presumption” that the lodestar constitutes a reasonable fee; departures from it will be “rare.” Perdue v. Kenny, 559 U.S. 542 (2010). The lodestar is said to “roughly approximate the fee that the prevailing attorney would have received if he or she had been representing a paying client who was billed by the hour in a comparable case.” Id. The assessment of a reasonable fee is typically made at the conclusion of the litigation at a hearing before the district court in which the contesting parties put on documentary or live testimony (or both) to establish what a reasonable fee...
- Under the Fees Act as construed by the Court, reasonable attorney’s fees are ordinarily available to prevailing plaintiffs in § 1983 litigation; they are ordinarily unavailable to prevailing defendants unless the plaintiff’s suit has been brought in bad
- 4. DEFENDANT FEES IN § 1983 LITIGATION
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Chapter 13. Section 1983 in the State Courts 31 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Section 1983 actions are not within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts. Therefore, state courts may hear them as well. Moreover, state courts may be obligated to hear § 1983 actions if they hear analogous claims under state law. And when a § 1983 case is brought in state court, federal substantive law will control as a matter of the Supremacy Clause, even if state law is to the contrary. Thus, for example, whether a municipality is a suable “person” under § 1983 is a question of federal law and not a question of state law. Similarly, most of the remedies associated with § 1983, including compensatory and punitive damages (as well as related immunities), and the availability of attorney’s fees, should also be available in the state courts, state law to the contrary notwithstanding. Nevertheless, state courts are ordinarily free to apply their own reasonable procedural rules to § 1983 cases, provided that the procedures do not discriminate against § 1983 claims by...
- As noted above, when § 1983 litigation takes place in the federal courts, some of the gaps in federal law are filled in by reference to state law under the command of § 1988. It is possible to read § 1988 as a command to federal courts only and not to state courts when it comes to gap filling. But when § 1983 cases are litigated in state courts it may well be that sometimes the state law that state courts must apply is the state law that the federal courts would have applied under § 1988. For example, the Court has concluded under § 1988 that § 1983 actions in federal court are to be governed by the state’s general statute of limitations for personal injury suits. Chapter 12. Were a state court to hear a § 1983 claim for a discriminatory firing of a government employee, the state court arguably must choose the applicable state statute of limitations consistent with that admonition. In other words, it may not conclude that another (for example, a more specific) limitations period is...a
- The Court has concluded that attorney’s fees are available in state court under the 1976 Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1988(b), even when the state courts would not otherwise recognize fee shifting. Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1 (1980). Conversely, were a state to implement its own version of a two-way loser-pays rule for state court litigation (applicable alike to plaintiffs and defendants), it is questionable whether the rule, if in conflict with the Court’s current reading of § 1988(b), could properly be applied to § 1983 litigation. The irony here, of course, is that § 1988(b) itself reads like a two-way fee-shifting rule, but it has been construed otherwise. In addition, as suggested above, the Court has also concluded that monetary damages can be available against a municipality under § 1983 even though state immunity doctrines would suggest otherwise.
- Even more controversially, the Court in concluded that Wisconsin’s exhaustion requirement discriminated against claims under § 1983 by singling out suits against government and its officials for the notice-of-claim provision, whose purpose was to curb such litigation. To be sure, § 1983 suits were treated worse than most tort suits against most defendants in Wisconsin. Yet the state statute prohibited the immediate filing of, not just § 1983 claims, but also any action based on state law that was brought against public defendants. So, at one relevant level of generality, there was no discrimination between § 1983 suits and other state-law suits against public officials and local governments. Consequently, the charge that Wisconsin “discriminated” against § 1983 actions is doubtful.
- Finally, note that not all § 1983 litigation is brought in state court voluntarily. Sometimes, litigants are told to repair to state court because the federal courthouse door is blocked. Constitutional challenges to state taxes and ratemaking are perhaps the two most conspicuous examples where Congress has placed jurisdictional limits on the federal courts. 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 1341–1342; Chapter 15. In fact, it was on direct review of a decision from state court in which the Supreme Court concluded that a dormant Commerce Clause action for damages claiming that state tax collection efforts discriminated against interstate commerce could be brought as a § 1983 suit. Dennis v. Higgins, 498 U.S. 439 (1991).
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Chapter 12. Choice of Law and § 1983 34 results (showing 5 best matches)
- In 1990, Congress enacted a four-year catch-all statute of limitations applicable to “civil action[s] arising under an act of Congress enacted after” December 1, 1990, if the underlying act lacked its own limitations period. 28 U.S.C.A. § 1658. In most § 1983 litigation, this catch-all statute would appear to be inapplicable. But § 1983 provides a remedy for violations of federal statutes by persons acting under color of law (see Chapter 5). It is therefore at least arguable that, if the underlying statute being enforced in a § 1983 action was itself enacted after December 1, 1990, and lacks its own limitations period, then the congressional catch-all supplies the relevant limitation period. Indeed, the Court has suggested as much. In City of Rancho Palos Verdes v. Abrams, 544 U.S. 113 (2005), the plaintiff sought to enforce a violation of the 1996 Telecommunications Act against a municipality through § 1983. Noting that the Court had previously held that the four year limitations...
- Sometimes gaps in § 1983 stay unfilled, as a matter of federal common law, even when state law would supply a workable rule of decision. For example, § 1983 has no provision for indemnity and contribution among defendants and is therefore arguably “deficient” (within the meaning of to develop an affirmative federal rule of indemnity and contribution. In so doing, of course, these federal courts are creating a federal common law rule of no indemnity and contribution in § 1983 actions. Cf. Texas Indus. v. Radcliff Materials, 451 U.S. 630 (1981) (reaching similar result in antitrust litigation).
- The Supreme Court concluded that § 1988 controlled the question of survival of § 1983 actions (although no one seems to have argued that it did not). Section 1988, concluded the court, broke down the choice of law question into three subsidiary inquiries: (1) Was there a deficiency in § 1983?; (2) Did state law speak to the deficiency?; (3) Was state law inconsistent with the “policies” underlying § 1983? With respect to the first question, the Court concluded that § 1983 was “deficient” within the meaning of § 1988, for the simple reason that neither § 1983 nor any other federal statute expressly provided for the survival of § 1983 actions.
- Section 1983 is a sparsely worded statute. It makes no provision for a host of substantive, procedural, and remedial matters. For example, it does not define the category of suable “persons,” it lacks a statute of limitations, and it makes no provision for immunities of officers or the standard for awarding compensatory or punitive damages. The courts have obviously had to supply meaning to these statutory gaps. The Supreme Court itself sometimes appears to engage in statutory interpretation, as when it decided on different occasions that the scope of suable persons included cities but excluded states. Other times, the Court seems to have developed federal common law, as when it decided that various officials would be able to assert personal immunities. On still other occasions, however, the Court has made recourse to state law under the direction of 42 U.S.C.A. § 1988(a), which the Court has read as a gap-filling device for actions under § 1983. Section 1988(a) provides in relevant...
- In the last part of its analysis, the Court suggested limits on its reasoning. Section 1988 mandates resort to state law only if it is not “inconsistent” with federal law or the Constitution. It therefore stated that a different case would be presented if there were no survival of any tort claims at all under state law, or if there were only minimal survival provisions. Such a possibility, suggested the Court, might place too great a burden on the vindication of rights under § 1983. In addition, it stated that if the death of the § 1983 plaintiff was itself caused by the deprivation of federal rights, state abatement rules might have to be ignored. Otherwise, state or local officials would have the perverse incentive (inconsistent, presumably, with § 1983) to finish off the victims of their unconstitutional action. Some lower courts have sensibly ignored state law in such circumstances. Jaco v. Bloechle, 739 F.2d 239 (6th Cir.1984). And in still other contexts, courts have largely...a
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Chapter 7. State Sovereign Immunity 45 results (showing 5 best matches)
- E. SECTION 1983 LITIGATION AFTER
- Finally, if the Court were writing on a clean slate, fee awards against the state for some § 1983 claims enforcing federal “laws” could have presented interesting questions under . As noted above, under the 1976 Attorney Fees Awards Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1988(b) (discussed in Chapter 11), the Court has held that states are liable for the plaintiff’s attorney fees when state officials have been successfully sued in their official capacities for injunctive relief. Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274 (1989); Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678 (1978). The Act, however, lacks anything like a clear statement that states will be monetarily liable for fees in such event. What is more, even if the Act had spoken clearly, it is open to question (given whether Congress could compel payment of fees from the state in § 1983 actions that seek to enforce rights under federal statutes enacted only pursuant to Congress’s Article I powers (e.g., suits to enforce welfare rights against state officials). But...
- A related but not identical issue was whether states might nevertheless be suable “persons” in court. Until relatively recently (see Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706 (1999)) sovereign immunity was sometimes thought to be relevant only to federal court jurisdiction. It was therefore argued that the crystal-clear language required for finding a congressional abrogation of state sovereign immunity from suit in federal court might not be required in deciding whether, as an ordinary matter of statutory interpretation, states were among the suable “persons” to whom § 1983 was addressed. In other words, the statutory interpretation of “persons” under § 1983 might have required merely ordinary evidence of state suability (for suit in state court under § 1983) rather than the extraordinary evidence of state suability for finding that § 1983 had abrogated state sovereign immunity from suit in federal court.
- For these very reasons, suits against individual officers of the state that seek damages from them personally are not, and have never been thought to be, suits against the state barred by the Eleventh Amendment. And the fact that the state might voluntarily agree with its officers to indemnify them for damages liability in § 1983 cases can hardly convert an otherwise permissible § 1983 damages action against the officer into an impermissible one against the state. See Sales v. Grant, 224 F.3d 293 (4th Cir.2000) (“a state’s promise of indemnity cannot invest governmental officers with sovereign immunity”); cf. Regents v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425 (1997) (finding Eleventh Amendment implicated even though state university was indemnified). Because a judgment against an officer in his personal capacity would not have to be paid by the state absent such an agreement, individual officer suits for damages do not present a case where relief “must be paid from” the state treasury. ...a... ...§ 1983....
- States cannot be made defendants in actions brought under § 1983. The reasons for the limitation are twofold. First, doctrines of sovereign immunity associated with the Eleventh Amendment prevent federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over suits by private parties against a state without its consent. Second, states are not suable “persons” within the meaning of § 1983. As a consequence, states cannot be sued in state courts under § 1983 any more than they can be sued in federal courts. This is not to say that relief cannot be obtained that might effectively run against the state under § 1983. As discussed below, it has long been possible in appropriate cases to obtain injunctive relief that effectively runs against the state by suing appropriate state officials to compel their future compliance with the Constitution. In addition, the sovereign immunity and statutory barriers to suing states are only applicable against the state itself, its agencies, and other arms of the state....
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Outline 74 results (showing 5 best matches)
Chapter 16. Habeas Corpus and Prisoner Litigation 44 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Habeas corpus provides prisoners a judicial mechanism to challenge the legality of their detention by government officials. Under existing statutes—substantially revised in 1996—state prisoners may seek federal habeas corpus if they are in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. As currently construed, this habeas mechanism gives prisoners a limited opportunity to re-raise constitutional questions that may already have been decided against them in state courts and to collaterally attack their conviction. Thus, habeas corpus is unlike § 1983 to the extent that rules of preclusion are less rigorously enforced than in § 1983 actions. Also, unlike most non-prisoner § 1983 litigation, habeas corpus has an exhaustion-of-state-remedies requirement as a precondition to federal court access. Yet both statutes provide a remedy against governmental illegality, and their remedies have the potential to overlap, at least when the § 1983 plaintiff is a...
- Nevertheless, Congress has imposed a number of procedural and remedial limitations on prisoner-initiated structural reform litigation under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA). And unlike most § 1983 actions, suits challenging prison conditions under § 1983 are subject to a non-jurisdictional, prison-remedies exhaustion requirement under the PLRA. 42 U.S.C.A. § 1997e(a). Suits “brought with respect to prison conditions” are therefore subject to a requirement that “available” prison remedies be exhausted. The Court has called the exhaustion requirement the “centerpiece” of the PLRA. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81 (2006). And it has interpreted this to require “proper” exhaustion, consistent with state law. Id. Thus, an untimely effort to exhaust state remedies would not comply with the PLRA. Id. But the burden is upon the defendant prison officials to raise the failure to exhaust as an “affirmative defense” to the prisoner’s § 1983 action. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007).
- Convicted persons sometimes try to bring damages actions for what they claim was their wrongful incarceration. If brought as claims under § 1983, they are, of course, subject to the requirements of . But assuming that the conviction has been vacated, reversed, or otherwise drawn in question in a manner that requires, would a § 1983 remedy for damages be available? It depends.
- was controlling, and that habeas must first be sought by a prisoner because of the impact that a successful § 1983 action would have on the validity of the state conviction (and hence on the fact of incarceration). Rather, the Court’s rule was broader, and did not purport to be limited to suits brought by those who were presently in custody when they filed their § 1983 action. Instead, any § 1983 suit that would have the effect of calling into question the lawfulness of a prior conviction in a manner like the suit in would be dismissed (not just postponed) unless the § 1983 plaintiff had satisfied one of the prerequisites indicated by the Court.
- The Supreme Court has also ruled that an action under § 1983 will be unavailable, even if the prisoner seeks relief unavailable under habeas, if the action would necessarily implicate the integrity of the judgment that sent the party to jail in the first place. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). The § 1983 plaintiff in was a prisoner who sought damages for the loss of constitutional rights associated with his criminal prosecution. After being convicted, he filed a § 1983 suit in which he alleged that state officials had engaged in unlawful acts—including destruction of evidence—that led to his conviction. Although the PLRA had not then been enacted, the claim would not have been subject to its exhaustion requirement because it was not a suit about prison conditions. And the damages relief being sought was unavailable in habeas. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court concluded that the claim could not be brought as a § 1983 action unless the underlying judgment was first voided in the...
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Chapter 10. Injunctions and Declaratory Relief 52 results (showing 5 best matches)
- In addition to damages, § 1983 plaintiffs may also seek injunctive and declaratory relief which can run effectively against either state or local governments. In the case of states, however, relief must be sought against the appropriate state officer, not the entity itself. To obtain injunctive relief, moreover, a plaintiff must meet certain requirements familiar to equity, as well as requirements of justiciability, including standing to sue. As discussed below, such equitable standing may be difficult to establish in challenges to informal law enforcement practices as opposed to other regulatory action by government. More complex injunctive relief, such as that involved in structural reform litigation, also raises federalism concerns regarding intervention by federal courts in the everyday functioning of state and local governments. Partly because of such concerns, prison reform litigation under § 1983 is now governed by an especially stringent set of congressional standards. In...
- Under 28 U.S.C.A. § 2201, a party “in a case of actual controversy within [a district court’s] jurisdiction” may obtain a declaration of the rights of the parties. The availability of declaratory relief in § 1983 cases is no less than it is in other areas. In fact, in a great deal of constitutional litigation, non-coercive declaratory relief as to the constitutionality of a piece of legislation or a governmental practice is as much sought as any coercive remedy, such as damages or an injunction. Requests for declaratory relief often accompany requests for injunctive relief, although declaratory relief need not satisfy the traditional equitable prerequisites of irreparable harm, for example, or the lack of adequate legal remedies. Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452 (1974). Declaratory relief in federal courts is, however, made discretionary by statute.
- Injunctive remedies are a familiar component of equity jurisdiction and are available in § 1983 actions in the proper case. Even though equitable remedies are traditionally said to be more extraordinary than legal remedies such as damages, this familiar hierarchy is sometimes turned upside down in the context of constitutional and civil rights litigation. For example, “negative” injunctions to halt or prevent a state or local official from enforcing an unconstitutional law are commonplace, and have been a fixture of the federal courts at least since Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), if not before. See Osborn v. Bank of the United States, 22 U.S. 738 (1824). And even more complex, “affirmative” or “structural” injunctive relief, such as that involved in school desegregation and other institutional reform litigation, has become a staple of the federal courts in the last sixty years. Brown v. Board of Ed., 347 U.S. 483 (1954). Many of these injunctive decrees have been entered with...
- Other problems may attend such a declaratory judgment, however. It is doubtful whether the state or its officials suing in their official capacity are “persons” who may sue under § 1983. The Court has held, for example, that the state and state officials sued in their official capacity are not suable “persons” under § 1983, and it makes sense that “persons” who may sue should be similarly construed. See Virginia Office for Prot. & Advocacy v. Reinhard, 405 F.3d 185 (4th Cir.2005) (independent state agency not a person who may sue under § 1983); cf. Breard v. Greene, 523 U.S. 371 (1998) (stating that Paraguay was not a “person” under § 1983, nor were its officers suing in their official capacity). As a matter of declaratory judgment law, it is less than clear whether a would-be defendant to a federal cause of action may always turn the tables and bring a declaratory action against the would-be plaintiff, at least when the declaratory plaintiff has no cause of action of his own under...
- The fact that many traditional equitable maxims may go slighted in modern § 1983 litigation does not suggest that equitable considerations may not bar injunctive relief in a particular case. It merely suggests that the presumptive availability of injunctive relief in a successful challenge to unconstitutional action is likely to be defeated only when there are particularly good reasons for doing so. Many of those reasons, discussed below, are associated with problems of “justiciability”—the appropriateness of judicial consideration of particular claims in Article III courts—and with problems of judicial “federalism”—the proper role of the federal judiciary in our system of government.
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Chapter 9. Damages and § 1983 18 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Jury awards of punitive damages are themselves subject to due process limitations, both procedural and substantive, as the Court has held on review of state court punitive damage awards in non-§ 1983 litigation. E.g., Philip Morris USA v. Williams, 549 U.S. 346 (2007); State Farm v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408 (2003). But in the federal court system, because of the standard set up in , and because the factfinder is ordinarily instructed about the nature and purpose of punitive damages, and also because there is post-verdict review of such awards, procedural due process should ordinarily not be a problem. Nevertheless, some measure of substantive review respecting the reasonableness of any punitive damages award may now also be appropriate in individual cases, for example, when there is only a nominal award of compensatory damages and punitive damages are high. (The more general subject of jury trial rights in § 1983 litigation is taken up in Chapter 18.)
- , § 1983 plaintiffs have been able to put on proof of and recover for virtually all of the sorts of injuries that one might see in more ordinary litigation, including recovery for mental anguish and emotional distress, feelings of unjust treatment, reputational harm, economic loss, fear, anxiety, humiliation and personal indignity, as well as for physical injury and out-of-pocket expenses. Similarly, parties that succeed in their § 1983 dormant Commerce Clause or pre-emption claims should be able to recover erroneous assessments, lost profits, and other business-related losses that they have suffered. E.g., Pioneer Military Lending, Inc. v. Manning, 2 F.3d 280 (8th Cir.1993). Expert testimony as to damages is as allowable in a § 1983 suit as it would be in any other suit. And dignitary harms, as well as mental and emotional distress, can also be established by the victim’s testimony, without the need for expert or corroborating testimony. Fisher v. Dillard University, 499 F.Supp....
- The Supreme Court’s rulings indicate that uniform federal common-law rules of damages rather than state law, ordinarily apply in § 1983 litigation. The Court has not lately invoked 42 U.S.C.A. § 1988(a), which often requires federal courts to resort to state law when § 1983 is silent on particular questions, to resolve questions of damages. See Chapter 12. To be sure, the Court looks to common-law principles, generated sometimes by state courts in developing its damages rules. But the Court has not felt obliged to look to the law of any particular state in developing its damages rules. Lower courts have also, if less consistently, ignored state law in § 1983 actions particularly when it would have worked a restriction on recovery, even when the theory of recovery is in the nature of a wrongful death action that may otherwise be shaped by state law. E.g., Berry v. City of Muskogee, 900 F.2d 1489 (10th Cir.1990); Bell v. City of Milwaukee, 746 F.2d 1205 (7th Cir.1984). And some courts...
- Section 1983 speaks of actions “at law” or suits “in equity” to redress the deprivation of constitutional rights. Accordingly, it is possible to recover the traditional range of compensatory damages from an official for the harm that he inflicts because of his constitutional violations, subject to any personal immunities of the officer. And such damages will be available against a local government when its officer has carried out official policy. States themselves, however, are exempt from such awards, largely because of sovereign immunity. In order to recover more than nominal damages from a § 1983 defendant, however, the victim of unconstitutional injury must put on proof of actual injury. In this regard, the Supreme Court has also stated that there should be no recovery beyond proved injury to reflect the “inherent” value of lost constitutional rights. Finally, punitive damages are available against individual officers, but not local governments, and only when there has been “...
- Punitive damages have historically been available under ordinary tort law to deter and punish egregious behavior. Punitive damages are available under § 1983 to achieve similar goals. When a defendant’s unconstitutional conduct is shown to be motivated by evil intent, or when it involves reckless or callous indifference to the federally protected rights of others, a jury may award punitive damages against the official. Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30 (1983). In , a Missouri prison inmate sued prison officials under § 1983 after he had been beaten, harassed, and sexually assaulted by his cellmates. He claimed a denial of his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment because of the defendant prison guards’ awareness of the likelihood of an assault. The jury awarded punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages—an award that the Supreme Court upheld.
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Chapter 4. Excessive Force, Private Violence, and § 1983 44 results (showing 5 best matches)
- As noted above, even when a prisoner succeeds in making out a claim under § 1983, a host of other requirements—unique to prisoner litigation—may limit or modify the prisoner’s remedies or manner of proceeding. See The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Those limitations range from a showing of physical injury before being able to recover for mental or emotional injury, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1997e(e), to restrictions on recoverable attorney’s fees, id. at (d)(1)–(4). There are also restrictions on the ability of prisoners to obtain prospective injunctive relief to remedy prison conditions under § 1983. See 18 U.S.C.A. § 3626(a)–(g); see generally Chapter 10 (equitable relief).
- This heightened standard of purposeful conduct therefore requires more than a showing of “reckless indifference” (or “objective unreasonableness”) on the part of officials. In addition, in § 1983 cases involving the use of excessive force against prisoners, the absence of “serious” physical injury may be relevant to deciding whether the Eighth Amendment has been violated, but it will not automatically foreclose such a possibility. . Absent a showing of “physical injury,” however, a prisoner may not recover for mental or emotional injury under § 1983. 42 U.S.C.A. § 1997e(e). In reasoning similar to that in , the Supreme Court in made clear that the Eighth Amendment, not the Due Process Clause, was the constitutional touchstone for acts of official violence inflicted on convicted persons. (It should be noted that most prisoner suits under § 1983 must contend with special restrictions, including an exhaustion requirement. See Chapter 16.)
- A claimed right to governmental protection from harm characterizes a host of § 1983 actions. Litigants—whether those in prison or those in “the free world”—often assert a right to be free from bodily harm, violence, and uses of excessive force at the hands of government officials and others. Of course, no specific constitutional provision identifies a generalized right to safety or to governmental protection from harm. But § 1983 will often supply a remedy for official violence—i.e., violence inflicted by governmental actors. Various provisions of the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments, as well as the Due Process Clause, may offer a theory of recovery for unconstitutional official violence in different contexts. The Fourth Amendment would cover excessive force in the context of arrests, the Eighth Amendment would cover excessive force in the prison...
- The Court, however, has stated its reluctance to look to or to expand the notion of substantive due process. “Where a particular amendment provides an explicit textual source of constitutional protection against a particular sort of government behavior, that Amendment, and not the more . What is more, outside of a Bill of Rights violation or the violation of some other fundamental right, lies an area in which state tort law has a presumptive claim. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981); . Section 1983 plaintiffs must therefore be able to convince a court why something that ordinarily would be merely tortious (and remediable in state court after-the-fact) is sufficiently egregious to qualify as a substantive due process violation deserving of immediate access to the federal courts.
- In an Eighth Amendment § 1983 action alleging prisoner-on-prisoner violence, suit is not brought against the wrongdoing private actor. Instead, suit is brought against the prison officials or other state actors responsible for the failure to protect the prisoner from injury. Provided that the inmate can show that there was a substantial risk of serious harm arising from a particular setting, a prison official’s “deliberate indifference” to that risk will violate the Eighth Amendment. So, for example, a prisoner who is sexually assaulted by his cellmate could sue the wrongdoing prison official under § 1983 for damages arising from the assault if he can show the deliberate indifference of the official in some relevant regard, such as in the assignment of cellmates.
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Chapter 5. Enforcing Rights Under Federal 31 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Section 1983 provides a remedy for violations of rights secured by the “Constitution and laws” of the United States. The Court has read this language as providing not just a means to redress state and local officials’ constitutional violations, but as providing a means to redress their violations of federal statutes as well. Moreover, the “statutory” scope of § 1983 includes (1) laws that may have little or nothing to do with traditional “civil rights” issues; (2) claims based on federal statutory pre-emption of state law; and (3) it may include a private right of action even when the underlying federal law does not itself provide for one, either expressly or impliedly. Nevertheless, a § 1983 action will be unavailable to redress violations of federal statutes by those acting under color of law unless, in the underlying federal statute, Congress has unambiguously created judicially enforceable individual rights. In addition, even if the underlying statute does create such rights, §
- There were at least two potential objections to the Court’s ruling, and both were made in dissent. First, it was arguable that § 1983’s reference to “laws” only meant to refer to “civil rights” laws and other laws associated with the enforcement of the Reconstruction-era amendments with which § 1983 was itself historically linked. Section 1983’s own specialized jurisdictional provision, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1343(3), referred only to violations of the Constitution and of laws “providing for equal , there was an amount-in-controversy requirement for actions brought under the federal question statute, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1331, but not under § 1343(3). The Court’s interpretation led to the odd result that there were some § 1983 claims that could not be brought in a federal court but only in a state court: namely, claims like the Thiboutots’ that were for violations of non-” equal rights” statutes that could not clear the then-existing amount-in-controversy hurdle of § 1331 (and which, as statutory...
- At issue in were the efforts by the City of Los Angeles to settle a local labor dispute—efforts that turned out to be pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The City had held up a taxicab company’s franchise renewal by conditioning it on the company’s resolution of an ongoing dispute that the company was having with its taxicab union. In an initial round of litigation the Supreme Court held that the City’s regulatory actions were pre-empted by the NLRA. The NLRA was said to give labor and management the right employ economic weapons of self-help (such as strikes or lockouts) during labor disputes, free and clear of interference by state and local governments. On remand, the taxicab company sought damages from the City under § 1983 for the delay in obtaining the franchise. In concluding that the § 1983 suit could be maintained, the Court observed ...not create rights enforceable under § 1983,” but rather that the Clause secured federal statutory rights when they...
- portend a cut-back on pre-emption cases under § 1983, it may still be possible to secure injunctive relief against pre-empted state or local laws in an equitable action brought under the federal question statute, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1331. Even before , the Court had allowed for such claims, without reliance on § 1983. Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, 463 U.S. 85 (1983). See also Verizon Md., Inc. v. Public Service Comm’n, 535 U.S. 635 (2002) (post- ). Such pre-emption actions therefore remain available even when § 1983 is unavailable—at least when plaintiffs are in the posture of seeking to enjoin threatened enforcement of the allegedly pre-empted state or local law against them. Douglas v. Indep. Living Center, 132 S.Ct. 1204 (2012) (Roberts, C.J., dissenting). And in Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Ctr., 135 S.Ct. 1378 (2015), the Court made clear that the Supremacy Clause does not itself create an implied private right of action for pre-emption claims seeking injunctive relief against pre-...
- decisions seemed to suggest that the less Congress said about a remedy in a statute, the more likely § 1983 would be available to enforce it. E.g., Wright v. City of Roanoke Redev. & Housing Auth., 479 U.S. 418 (1987) (allowing suit under § 1983 to remedy violation of federal regulations respecting overbilling for utilities in low-income public housing although statute lacked any reference to judicial enforcement). But the Court has arguably toughened up this inquiry. To be sure, if a statute creates enforceable rights as called for by , it remains possible that a § 1983 action will be available to enforce it even when a private right of action would not be, because of the lack of congressional intent to provide a private remedy within the underlying statute. Cf. Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee, 555 U.S. 246 (2009) (concluding Title IX did not displace § 1983 action to redress unconstitutional gender discrimination in schools, although Court had inferred private right of...
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Chapter 15. Abstention and Related Doctrines 69 results (showing 5 best matches)
- ’s prohibition on injunctive relief also bars federal court declaratory relief when there is an ongoing state criminal proceeding against the § 1983 plaintiff in which the same issue may be raised. Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66 (1971). The Court in held that declaratory relief in favor of a § 1983 plaintiff who was also a criminal defendant in state court could interfere with the state proceedings through preclusion and similar consequences. In addition, a plaintiff’s damages action in federal court will be stayed (but not dismissed), pending the outcome of state criminal proceedings against him. Deakins v. Monaghan, 484 U.S. 193 (1988). For example, a § 1983 plaintiff may have a Fourth Amendment claim respecting an unconstitutional search and seizure, but the same issues can be litigated in the ongoing criminal proceeding brought against him in a motion to suppress evidence from the search. Dismissal of the § 1983 action is inappropriate, presumably because damages relief cannot...
- The judge-made abstention doctrines are more numerous. As discussed below, a federal court may dismiss a § 1983 action that seeks declaratory or injunctive relief against the enforcement of an allegedly unconstitutional law when the § 1983 plaintiff is also the subject of an ongoing state criminal or other state-initiated coercive proceeding in which his constitutional challenge can be raised by defense. In addition, a federal court hearing a § 1983 action seeking equitable or declaratory relief may abstain from immediately deciding federal constitutional questions when underlying unclear questions of state law may moot the need to decide the constitutional questions. More rarely, a federal court may dismiss a § 1983 action when its decision would interfere with state administrative efforts to establish coherent regulatory policy. But it is ordinarily not the case that a federal court can refrain from deciding a § 1983 action simply because there is an ongoing parallel civil action...
- Despite the anything but express language of § 1983, however, the Court determined in Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225 (1972) that § 1983 actions were an express exception to the strictures of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Court concluded that in at least some cases an injunction against state court proceedings might be the only way to give effect to § 1983 which was aimed at unconstitutional state action of all varieties: legislative, law-enforcement, and judicial. To be sure, gave some good reasons why Congress might wish to make § 1983 an express exception to the Anti-Injunction Act, but it did not do an especially good job of explaining how Congress had done so. As noted below, a narrower ruling might have been more defensible and consistent with the Anti-Injunction Act’s terms.
- does not bar a declaratory judgment action by a § 1983 plaintiff who has been threatened with arrest under an unconstitutional statute but who is not being prosecuted. Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452 (1974). In , the § 1983 plaintiff was threatened with arrest for violating a state anti-leafleting statute. The plaintiff was not being prosecuted when he sought federal declaratory relief under § 1983, even though his cohort had been arrested and was undergoing a state criminal prosecution for violating the same statute. Although the Court had earlier held ( ) that declaratory relief was unavailable in the face of an ongoing prosecution because of its similarity to the interference posed by injunctive relief, the Court now concluded that declaratory relief was actually less drastic medicine than an injunction, at least when there was no prosecution pending in state court against the party who was the § 1983 declaratory plaintiff. Thus, the
- Court did suggest, however, that there might be “extraordinary circumstances” that would permit a federal court to enjoin ongoing state criminal proceedings. If, for example, the state proceedings had been brought in bad faith or for purposes of harassment, or when there could be no genuine expectation of conviction, or when the challenged statute was patently and flagrantly unconstitutional “in every clause, sentence and paragraph,” ’s bar would be inapplicable. Perhaps the bringing or maintenance of such proceedings is an independent constitutional violation that § 1983 by its express terms would allow courts to enjoin. If so, the Court could simply have said that § 1983 was an express exception to the Anti-Injunction Act in those limited circumstances. Instead, the Court chose a more complicated route. It made § 1983 an across-the-board exception to the Anti-Injunction Act in as an exception to , which is an exception to , which is an exception to the Anti-Injunction Act.
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Chapter 3.Chapter 3. Parratt and the Scope of Due Process 33 results (showing 5 best matches)
- How much more culpability than mere negligence (but, perhaps, short of intent) would be enough to make out a due process violation in these settings was left unresolved. Later cases, discussed below, have continued to struggle with the issue. But it is important to note that the state-of-mind inquiry for due process is just that: a predicate for showing an unadorned due process violation. Other constitutional provisions will carry their own state of mind requirements in § 1983 litigation, as discussed above.
- Section 1983 clearly goes beyond state tort law. But unchecked it has the potential to displace much of state tort law altogether. The Due Process Clause speaks of deprivations of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. At some level, any official interference with one of these interests—which largely cover the universe of interests that states might seek to protect in their tort systems—can be articulated as a due process violation, and therefore subject to suit in a federal court. Such suits might then include something as egregious as the beating of an individual incident to arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment, as well as the fender-bender precipitated by a police officer’s poor driving. To keep § 1983 from supplanting state tort law (at least when the wrongdoers are governmental officials), the federal courts have attempted to refine the scope of due process, and with it, the sorts of disputes that federal courts rather than state courts should be able to...
- By way of additional illustration, § 1983 has provided a remedy for violations of First Amendment rights respecting speech and religion. Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claims and other prisoner-rights actions have also been brought under § 1983. And, in the wake of McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), § 1983 should also be available to redress deprivations of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. In addition, as noted in Chapter 2, violations of other constitutional provisions, including the Equal Protection Clause, the Commerce Clause, and Article IV’s Privileges and Immunities Clause, may all be redressed under § 1983. In sum, complaints alleging violations of the Bill of Rights and most other (non-due process) provisions of the Constitution are immediately actionable in a § 1983 suit, without regard to state remedies.
- In any event, the Court’s basic insight in is defensible. A constitutional violation potentially lurks behind any official deprivation of life, liberty, or property. Unless all such deprivations are to be made immediately actionable in federal court under § 1983, some formula for inclusion and exclusion has to be developed. That is arguably what the Court has tried to do in its refusal to fundamentalize all liberty interests, in its focus on systemic versus ad hoc deprivations, and in its creation of high barriers to finding “substantive” due process deprivations. Moreover, by leaving primarily to state court adjudication most ad hoc official deprivations of rights that take their primary shape from state law, the Court has arguably made a sensible institutional choice and also has prevented the trivialization of § 1983. Whether what the Court is doing is imposing a kind of exhaustion rule on some deprivations, or a rule of abstention, or simply a narrowing of the scope of due...
- The pleading incentives for § 1983 plaintiffs bent on a federal forum are clear. If it is possible to shoehorn one’s deprivation of life, liberty, or property into one of the Bill of Rights guarantees, or otherwise successfully argue that there has been a deprivation of “substantive” due process, resort may be made immediately to the remedy provided by § 1983. Also, most non-due process substantive constitutional violations (such as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause) can be remedied in federal court in the first instance under § 1983. Absent such possibilities, however, there is only the procedural due process right that there be some pre- or post-deprivation process within the state court system to remedy the state’s deprivation of non-fundamental liberty or property interests.
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Chapter 6. Municipal Liability 45 results (showing 5 best matches)
- In addition, because entity liability presupposes an underlying constitutional violation by an officer of the entity (see Los Angeles v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796 (1986)), “a section 1983 failure-to-train case cannot be maintained against a governmental employer in a case where there is no underlying violation by the employee.” Young v. City of Mt. Ranier, 238 F.3d 567 (4th Cir.2001); compare Fagan v. City of Vineland, 22 F.3d 1296 (3d Cir.1994).
- The parameters of what constitutes governmental custom or policy have been the subject of intense dispute. In a series of decisions, the Supreme Court has held that not just formal legislative enactments, but also the individual decisions of those who are final “policymakers” can subject local governments to monetary liability. In addition, it has concluded that sometimes an entity’s failure to train its officials can subject it to liability for their otherwise apparently random and unauthorized unconstitutional acts, as can a failure properly to screen at the time of hire. Local governments may, of course, be subject to injunctive relief. But they will not be subject to punitive damages even for their grossly unconstitutional acts. For better or worse, the precedents in the area are some of the most convoluted in all § 1983 litigation.
- Cities, counties, and other local governmental entities are suable under § 1983. As a matter of statutory interpretation, they are among the class of suable “persons” to which § 1983 refers, and, in addition, they cannot claim state sovereign immunity. This is in stark contrast to the states themselves and to state agencies and other arms of state government, who are not suable “persons” (and who could also claim sovereign immunity). Nevertheless, local governments are not liable in damages for the constitutional harms inflicted by their officers on a vicarious liability or basis. Instead, a local government will be accountable in a damages action under § 1983 for the unconstitutional acts of one of its officials only if the plaintiff can show that the official acted pursuant to some law, custom, or policy of the governmental entity. The unauthorized, random unconstitutional acts of a local official are therefore not ordinarily attributable to the entity for which the official...
- But the Supreme Court may have imposed an even stricter standard, at least in settings alleging unconstitutional motivation. In a constitutional action against federal officials (not under § 1983 but under the doctrine, the “federal analog” to § 1983—see Chapter 17), the Supreme Court rejected a theory of supervisory liability against the Attorney General and the FBI Director for alleged unconstitutional actions. A Pakistani Muslim complained that he was subject to harsh treatment because of his race, religion, or national origin following his arrest as a person of “high interest” in the wake of 9/11. The Court dismissed the Complaint on pleading grounds, and specifically rejected an argument that these two defendants could be liable because of their knowledge of, and acquiescence in, the possible unconstitutional acts of their subordinates. “In a § 1983 suit or a ...servants—the term ‘supervisory liability’ is a misnomer. Absent vicarious liability, each Government official...
- The Court’s reasons for its decision are hardly airtight. The tea leaves of the rejection of the Sherman Amendment seem able to support almost any result. And the language of causation in § 1983 certainly does not compel the conclusion that employer liability should not attach unless the agent acted pursuant to custom or policy. Certainly no such limitation exists for employer liability in the private sector; a private employer can be liable for a tort committed by his employee in the course of employment even when the employee violated the employer’s policies. Indeed, in , it was determined that an official’s actions could be attributable to the government for state action purposes, and that he could act “under color of” law for § 1983’s purposes, even when he did act pursuant to custom or policy, so long as he was acting in the course of employment.
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Chapter 8. Personal Immunities 56 results (showing 5 best matches)
- As discussed in Chapter 2, private parties ordinarily do not engage in state action and therefore typically cannot be sued under § 1983, quite apart from questions of immunity. But sometimes private persons do engage in state action and act under color of law when they act in concert with state or local officials. In Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U.S. 24 (1980), for example, a state court judge issued an injunction against an individual in connection with a mineral rights dispute. The party who was the subject of the injunction then brought a § 1983 claim against the judge and the party who originally obtained the injunction against him, claiming that they corruptly conspired to enter the injunction and to deprive him of his property without due process of law. Even though one of the defendants in the § 1983 action was a private party, the Supreme Court concluded that he had acted under color of law because he “was a willful participant engaged in joint action with” a state official in...
- Thus, when a judge fired a probation officer for sexually discriminatory reasons, the Court held that the firing was an administrative, not a judicial act, and therefore subject only to qualified immunity. Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219 (1988). And in Zarcone v. Perry, 572 F.2d 52 (2d Cir.1978), the Second Circuit apparently found that a traffic court judge’s mock sentencing of a courthouse coffee vendor for making bad coffee was not protected by absolute immunity, either because it was in excess of all jurisdiction, or because it was not a judicial act. At the same time, however, the Supreme Court has held that a judge’s order to his bailiff to go out into the hallway and “with excessive force” apprehend a tardy attorney, was subject to absolute immunity because the act of compelling counsel’s appearance (even if not the command to use excessive force) was the kind of function ordinarily performed by a court and therefore was a judicial act. And the order itself, while “in excess...
- Finally, care must be taken to distinguish between absolutely protected legislative activity and other functions. For example, judges of the Virginia high court were said to be engaging in a legislative function insofar as they were responsible under state law for promulgating state bar rules. Supreme Court of Virginia v. Consumers Union, 446 U.S. 719 (1980). Thus, in a case like , someone other than an official acting in a legislative capacity would have to be named as a defendant if the § 1983 plaintiff wanted to enjoin the enforcement of an allegedly unconstitutional state bar rule. Analogously, in the context of litigation against federal officials, statements by legislative officials made outside of the legislative confines have been held unprotected, even if they would have been protected if made within them. Hutchinson v. Proxmire, 443 U.S. 111 (1979).
- In contrast to law enforcement and executive branch officials, persons acting in a judicial capacity are accorded an absolute immunity from § 1983 suits for damages for all of their judicial acts—no matter how erroneous or objectively unreasonable—at least if they are acting within their jurisdiction. Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967). Indeed, liability will not even attach for acts, including malicious and corrupt ones, that happen to be “in excess of jurisdiction” unless they are undertaken in a “clear absence of all jurisdiction.” Thus, in Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978), an Indiana judge of general jurisdiction was held absolutely immune when sued under § 1983 for having entered an ex parte order, without notice or hearing, to allow sterilization of a minor on the petition of her parents. Although state law neither gave the parents the right to consent to their child’s sterilization nor expressly provided for any judicial approval of sterilization procedures for...
- nor § 1983 suggests that those who violate the Constitution may claim personal immunity from liability, subsequent decisions have concluded that virtually all public officials may be able to claim some form of personal immunity from damages awards for their discretionary acts. Law enforcement and most other administrative officials enjoy qualified immunity, which enables them to avoid personal damages liability if they can show that they acted in objective good faith—i.e., that a reasonable officer would not have known that his actions violated the Constitution. In short, for these officials, mistaken judgments reasonably arrived at are off-limits to damages awards under § 1983. Officials who act unconstitutionally in their judicial or prosecutorial capacity typically enjoy an immunity from damages as do legislators and many others who engage in lawmaking functions. By contrast, private parties who act in concert with state or local officials can act under color of law for...
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Index 27 results (showing 5 best matches)
Table of Statutes 51 results (showing 5 best matches)
Advisory Board 3 results
- Publication Date: December 1st, 2015
- ISBN: 9781634592307
- Subject: Civil Rights
- Series: Nutshells
- Type: Overviews
- Description: Coverage includes the statute's modern revival in Monroe v. Pape, municipal liability, individual officer and sovereign immunity, excessive force litigation, choice of law, state and federal court jurisdiction, remedies, and attorney's fees. There are also chapters on federal officer liability and the relationship between habeas corpus and section 1983. A helpful tool for practitioners, students, judges, and their clerks, or anyone wishing to get up to speed on this complex, ever-changing topic.