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Federal Courts
University of Illinois School of Law
Kordik, Ellen R.

Federal Courts
Professor Kordik
Fall 2007
 
The Role of the Federal Courts – Two Models (p. 32)
·                    Private Law
o                         Primary role is dispute resolution between parties
·                                Prefers narrow view: discrete injuries that were plainly caused by defendant’s conduct
·                                Relief dictated by nature of the injury, aimed at eliminating the wrongful conduct
·                                Unnecessary constitutional decisions should be avoided
·                    Public Rights
o                         Role is to confront systematic social problems
·                                Interests asserted include diffuse harms to interests held in common by large numbers of persons
 
 
SECTION 1983
·                    Ex parte Young action – prospective relief against state and federal officials for violating the Constitution (in state or federal court)
·                    42 U.S.C. § 1983:
o                         “Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress[.]”
o                         Designed to interpose the federal courts between the states and the people
o                         Can only sue federal officers if they are acting under color of state law – and can’t sue state officers enforcing federal law
·                                For federal officers acting under color of federal law, see Bivens under implied constitutional remedies
o                         Is 1983 a grant of jurisdiction to the federal courts? NO.
·                                28 USC 1343 – a specific grant of jurisdiction for 1983 provisions
·                                Also a federal question, so invokes federal question jurisdiction
·                    “Person”
o                         Clear from the legislative history that “person” was not limited to natural persons
·                                But keep in mind 11th Amendment restrictions
§                                      Quern v. Jordan (n5, p. 29) held that Congress did not intend to abrogate the 11th Amendment through § 1983, so a state cannot be sued under 1983 in federal court
·                                Court has since held that states are not “persons” for 1983 purposes at all (state or federal court)
o                         Monell v. Department of Social Services (p. 23)
·                                Monroe held that “person” could not include municipalities – OVERRULED by Monell
·                                Plaintiffs may bring § 1983 suits against local governments for damages, injunctive or declaratory relief, for an action take pursuant to a policy or custom of the municipality
§      

equate scrutiny of the applicant’s background would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the hiring will result in the deprivation of a third party’s constitutional rights
                       “Custom”
     Must show a pattern of action or inaction
§                                            Custom is “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” like policy
     Must show actual or constructive knowledge of policy makers
§                                            Constructive knowledge – should have known – negligence
·                    “Under color of state laws”
                 Monroe v. Pape (p. 12)
                       Monroe suing for an illegal search and detention
                       “Under color of state law” means the actor is using the power given to him by the state to abuse the law
     Dissent argues that an officer can only be acting “under color of state law” when his actions are authorized
                 Definition excludes purely personal activities by state officials
                       Court has said “under color of state law” is generally co-extensive with “state action” for 14th Amendment purposes
                       Police on duty will generally be found to be acting under color of state law