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Civil Rights
West Virginia University School of Law
Cleckley, Frank D.

 Civil Rights (Abernathy)
 
 
Civil Rights (Abernathy)
 
Topic Class Notes
 
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties: The Law of 1983
by Shelton Nahmod
 
Final Exam – covers everything we covered – today’s material not included
 
 
30 true/false questions
2 essay questions
 
3 hours – closed book exam
 
if we went over note, it’s likely in the exam
 
 
 
I. Section 1983 – State Interference with Civil Rights
 
A. Introduction
 
Monroe v. Pape , 365 U.S. 167, U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Douglas, 1961
 
Case Brief
 
FACTS: Monroe had his home invaded by 13 police officers. One plaintiff had to stand naked in the living room while the house was ransacked. Mr. Monroe was taken into custody and held for 10 hours. He was not permitted to call family or an attorney and was not taken before a magistrate. Officers had no search or arrest warrant.
 
PROCEDURAL HISTORY: District Court dismissed the case. Appeals court upheld the dismissal.
 
ISSUE: City of Chicago argues that they are not liable for acts committed during the performance of its governmental function.
 
RULE: 42 U.S.C. § 1983:
“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the U.S. 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 of law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.”
 
APPLICATION: Court completed analysis of the legislative history of §1983.
Held that the chairman stated that “no one objects to this” and the title
Fourth Amendment has been applicable to the states through the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.
 
HOLDING:
“§1983 should be read against the background of tort liability that makes a man responsible for the natural consequences of his actions.”
A Municipality cannot be sued under §1983. [Can sue individuals, cannot sue a city]  
 
 
 
Class Notes
 
One of the most important cases for 42 U.S.C. §1983. Cited more often than any other case we will discuss.
 
§1983 utilizes the 14th amendment to give individuals the right to sue state officials if their civil rights have been violated.
 
In comparing the opinions, ought to ask: who’s right and who’s wrong about the scope of “under the color of law?”
 
Justice Douglas – appointed as one of youngest justices – was he smart enough?
Justice Frankfurter – considered by some as one of the smartest justices ever on the court
 
Cleckley thinks:
Justice Douglas was correct. Justice Frankfurter was incorrect.
 
Most Justices think this case was decided correctly.
 
Cited two holdings in the case:
“§1983 should be read against the background of tort liability that makes a man responsible for the natural consequences of his actions.”
A Municipality cannot be sued under §1983. [Can sue individuals, cannot sue a city]  
“The question with which we now deal is the narrower one of whether Congress, in enacting [§1983], meant to give a remedy to parties deprived of constitutional rights, privileges, and immunities by an official’s abuse of his position.”
 
 
Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Services of the City of NY , 436 U.S. 658, U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Brennan, 1978
 
Case Brief
 
FACTS: Female employees of the Dept. of Social Services and the Board of Education because the official policy compelled them to take unpaid leaves of absence prior to when it was medically necessary. Plaintiffs sued for injunctive relief and back pay to be paid from the city treasury.
 
PROCEDURAL HISTORY: District Court held that the acts were unconstitutional, but because of the Monroe case, damages could not be sought against the City of New York. Sent on interlocutory appeal to Supreme Court for clarification on the issue of Monroe.
 
ISSUE: Does the Monroe holding limit suits against a city for discriminatory policy?
 
 
RULE: §1 required local governments to obey the Constitution as they carried out their governmental functions.
 
APPLICATION: Through thorough analysis of legislative history, including the Dictionary Act of Feb. 25, 1871, which defined persons including municipal corporations.
 
HOLDING:
“A local government may not be sued under §1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is when execution of a government’s policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may be fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible under §1983.”
 
 
 
 
 
Class Notes
 
Does Brennan clarify the law in this case or just confuse it?
 
 
 
 
B. Elements of a Plaintiff’s 1983 Claim
 
Topic Notes
 
From Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981):
 
“Two Essential Elements” that a plaintiff must prove in order to state a claim under §1983:
 
[1] that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under the color of state law, and
 
[2] that this conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States
 
If one can prove these two elements, one has established a prima facie case for liability.
 
 
1. Standards of Care Applicable in 1983 Suits – Sources of Law
 
Whirl v. Kern , 407 F.2d 781, TX, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, Judge Goldberg, 1968
 
Case Brief
 
FACTS: Mr. Whirl was arrested on suspicion of felony theft in Houston. Grand Jury indicted him. Later, District Attorney requested the dismissal of the charges. The judge granted the dismissal. The Sheriff was notified, but stated he never saw it. Mr. Whirl was then held in the jail for an extra nine months.
 
PROCEDURAL HISTORY: District Court jury found in favor of the sheriff.
 
ISSUE: Was the sheriff privileged in the ?
 
RULE: 42 U.S.C. § 1983:
“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of t

e and Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to reinstate the complaint.
 
ISSUE: Did Prison subject plaintiff to cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment?
 
RULE: 42 U.S.C. § 1983:
“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the U.S. 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 of law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.”
 
8th Amendment:
 
 
APPLICATION: Government is required to provide medical care for prisoners. Only “deliberate indifference” to “serious medical needs” of prisoners constitutes “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain. Court held that in this case, it was possibly mere malpractice, but not to the level of an 8th Amendment claim under §1983.
 
CONCLUSION: Reversed Appeals Court and re-instated District Court’s ruling.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Whitley v. Albers , 475 U.S. 312, U.S. Supreme Court, Justice O’Connor, 1986
 
Case Brief
 
FACTS: Prisoner was shot during prison officials attempt to quell a prison riot. Plaintiff argues that he was knowlingly just a by-stander and trying to protect the older inmates.
 
PROCEDURAL HISTORY: District Court directed a verdict for the defendants. The Court of Appeals reversed.
 
ISSUE: Does the shooting of a prisoner in the quelling of a riot constitute “cruel and unusual punishment?”
 
RULE: 42 U.S.C. § 1983:
“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the U.S. 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 of law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.”
 
8th Amendment:
 
 
APPLICATION:
 
The infliction of pain in the course of a prison security measure does not amount to cruel and unusual punishment simply because it may appear in retrospect that the degree of force authorized or applied for security purposes was unreasonable, and hence unnecessary in the strict sense.
 
Court believes the question turns on “whether force was applied in a good faith effort to