§ 1983 – applies only to state officials and municipalities
A. Provides retrospective damages against anyone acting under color of state law for violating rights.
1. Does not create substantive rights, but is a vehicle for enforcing existing federal rights.
B. Scope of “law” enforceable under § 1983:
1. Regulations promulgated to interpret federal statutes
C. Can be filed in state or federal court (but subject to removal to fed ct) bc federal question.
1. A complaint filed in federal court must name a defendant who is:
a) Not immune under 11A
b) Acting under color of state law
c) Relief must not barred by 11A
2. If the П establishes a violation of a federal right, defendants may in certain circumstances avoid liability for damages by proving a qualified immunity.
D. Don’t need to exhaust available state remedies:
1. Exceptions: takings cases (or “suits at common law”), prisoners.
· Home Telephone – doesn’t matter what states provide you, you can sue directly in fedl court under language of constitution
· Ex Parte Young – you can sue state officials in fedl ct for injunctive relief
· Monroe – adds retrospective relief
· Monell – you can sue municipalities under § 1983 (municipalities = persons)
Caveat: municipalities are not responsible for employee torts unless pursuing an official “policy or custom”
2. Can sue federal officers if enforcing/working in conjunction with state officers
3. Cannot sue state officials enforcing federal law
Home Telephone & Telegraph v. City of Los Angeles (1913)
FACTS: Telephone co. sues saying service rates so low that deprivation of property under 14A.
RELIEF: Equitable (retrospective or prospective!?)
City’s arguments: Non-diverse parties, so need to satisfy fedl question. If rate ordinance violates DP, then violates both state and fedl constit.
· Local action cannot be state action if its illegal
· Not illegal until state supreme ct. says it is—then becomes ‘state action’
· Fedl jurisdiction can only have jurisdiction if it’s a state action.
Ct: State action occurred at the time the rate was imposed. Fed cts do not have to wait for state courts to decide legality under state law. Doesn’t matter if HT&T could have gotten a remedy under state law.
Ø Illegality under state law and availability of state remedies are irrelevant to federal jurisdiction.
Monroe v. Pape (U.S. 1961, P. 13)
Expands principles in Ex Parte Young that you could seek injunctive relief against govt in fed’l court
1. Illegal search of home—4A violation but COA under 14A b/c of incorporation.
2. Ps sued the police officers and the city of Chicago in federal district court for damages arising from a violation of 14A rights under § 1983, derived from § 1 of “Ku Klux Act” of 1871 (provides a remedy for parties deprived of constitutional rights by an official’s abuse of his position under color of any statutory authority).
1. § 1983 provides a private COA under fedl law for parties deprived of constitutional rights.
2. State can be liable for authorized acts of its officers.
3. Police officers can also be liable in their individual capacity.
C. MAJORITY (Douglas):
1. Congressional Intent: “§ 1983 was an act to enforce the provisions of 14A”.
a) 3 main aims:
i) Override state laws (maybe)
a. Opposition said “Irrelevant, b/c Alabama never passed a law endangered rights of blacks”
ii) Provide remedy where state law was inadequate (e.g. state laws that prohibit blacks from testifying against whites)
iii) Provide a federal remedy where state remedy not available in practice (just theory).
2. Broad Sweep:
a) No need to exhaust state remedies before going to fed court (fed remedy=supplementary)
a) Expands access to federal court on federal question jurisdiction (no amount in controversy/diversity jurisdiction necessary)
4. “Under color of state law” – “misuse of power, possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law, is action taken ‘under color of state law’.”
D. CONCURRENCE (Harlan, Stewart):
1. No meaningful distinction between authorized and unauthorized actions evidence in legislative history.
2. Deprivation of constitutional right: more serious=different remedy?
a) If only authorized actions could go to fed’l court, statute would merely have a jurisdictional function unless deprivation of constitutional right is different and more serious than violation of state right, therefore deserves a different remedy.
3. Arg: Unauthorized actions are already illegal –so state court can be the forum
E. DISSENT (Frankfurter): Federalism arguments
1. Art. III jurisdiction reflected assumption that state courts, not federal courts, would remain primary guardians of individual rights.
a) Actions between co-citizens of a state should remain in state court
b) The infrequent use of ultimate, federal power adds to its effectiveness
2. Authorized actions are worse:
a) Authorized actions are somehow more offensive than unauthorized actions–so let the states deal w/ unauthorized illegal actions
a) “Under color of state laws” should be understood in the background context of the relationship between the states and federal governments
b) Federal intervention should be limited to securing minimal guarantees afforded by the evolving concepts of DP and EP.
c) Otherwise, may do individuals a disservice by deflecting responsibility from state lawmakers.
Monell v. Dept. of Social Services (U.S. 1978, P. 26)
1. Challenge to official policy that requires female employees to take unpaid leaves of absence before leaves were required for medical reasons.
2. Municipality says: they can’t sue us b/c of the immunity conferred on municipalities for damages suits (Monroe v. Pape)
1. Monroe overruled in regard to municipal immunity.
2. Municipalities are “persons” under S. 1983 (just like corporations)
a) Caveat: municipalities are not responsible for employee torts unless pursuing an official “policy” or “custom”
i) Must be more than imposing vicarious liability solely on the basis of employer-employee relationship.
Ex Parte Young (U.S. 1908), P. 24
1. MN RR laws capped rates and imposed heavy penalties for noncompliance.
2. RR SH sued state atty gen (Young) and others to enjoin enforcement
3. Fed dist. Ct. rejected Young’s 11A argument
a) Held Young in contempt for trying to enforce RR rate caps
1. Ct. made available a federal offensive remedy for persons seeking to stop present or future unconstitutional acts by state officers
a) Before, you had to wait until you were being prosecuted to bring federal remedies as a defense
2. Applied only to injunctive relief
1. Even though S. 1983 opens up COA for relief for constitutional violations, even if you can prove that a constitutional right WAS violated, you do not win if the actor has immunity!
2. *Motive is not an important inquiry!*
a) Because immunities are based in common law, we assume that officials are acting in good faith.
3. Interlocutory appeal is available to an officer who has asserted and lost an immunity claim
a) Not just an element that protects officials from monetary damages, but also protects from having to participate in any litigation at all
1. Available in certain cases when you are acting in a functional capacity that is entitled to it.
2. It doesn’t matter if you act in excess of your authority
A. JUDICIAL FUNCTION:
1. Immunity is based on function, not office
thing in the record indicates that the DOJ’s views were communicated to the officers—Ct. doesn’t care; thinks it’s THAT obvious
E. An affirmative defense that must be pleaded
1. No discovery until threshold immunity question is resolved (HardHarlow v. Fitzgerald)
a) Treats all officials the same way, regardless of seniority/rank
2. Objective and subjective aspects:
a) Objective: a presumptive knowledge of and respect for “basic, unquestioned constitutional rights.” –Δ must meet burden of establishing this at
b) Subjective: “permissible intentions”; would mean discovery, and likely trial b/c motive is an inherently factual judgment.
F. Immunity may not extend b/c of “special function”
1. Harlow v. Fitzgerald – Bivens damages action against former Nixon aides; alleged retaliatory firing
a) Ct: “special functions” rationale does not warrant a blanket recognition of absolute immunity for all presidential aides in performance of all of their duties (decline to extend Nixon’s immunity to his aides)
G. Policy and Scope
· Protects independence and objectivity
· Requires jurisdiction or “judicial acts” JS: doesn’t mean much, just that you can’t make someone use force and drag a coffee vendor in!
· Hiring and firing is an administrative, not judicial function
· Protects independence and objectivity
· Must perform prosecutorial function (calling and examining witnesses is)
· NOT pros fnct:
o Speaking w/ counsel=giving legal advice
o Assisting police investigation
· Speech or Debate Clause
· Protects state legislators
· Must perform legislative function (passing rules of general applicability)
· Now retrospective and prospective
· Injunctive relief only if violation of declaratory judgment or declaratory relief is unavailable (general statutory rule: no injunctive relief)
· No attorney’s fees
· Retrospective but not prospective
· Both retrospective and prospective
· No money damages
· Court clerks
· Probation officers
· Police who enforce court orders
· Police officers for testimony given as witnesses
· Why? Bc officers know the criminal penalties for perjury–> that’s enough deterrent
· Circ. split on whether absolute or qualified immunity on pre-trial procedures
· Other witnesses?–also circ. split
· Legislative aides and counsel
· State and local legislators
1. Is immunity compatible w/ proposition that we have const. rights that we should be able to vindicate?
2. What about Marbury? If there is a right, there is a remedy…or is there?
3. These ideas conflict, but we (aka courts) have decided the consequences of no immunity is too high
a) Or rather, the courts have decided this based upon common law (not statutory)
b) This has an underlying assumption about the nature and trustworthiness of officials–that violations of rights are not intentional