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Constitutional Torts Outline

Constitutional Torts Outline

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Published by Jason Henry

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Published by: Jason Henry on Jun 10, 2012
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Introduction to constitutional torts
A. Definition: Actions brought against governments and their officialsand employees seeking damages for the violation of federalconstitutional right, particularly those arising under the 14
 amendment and the Bill of Rights. Note: the only people who canviolate your constitutional rights are government employers.Constitution only limits governmental power, not individual (exceptionis 13
amendment prohibiting slavery). Bill of rights not applicable tothe states directly; have to look to the 14
amendment (1
, 4
, 6
, and 8
) for incorporation. Con torts share main policy goals w/traditional torts: deterrence and compensation.B. 42 U.S.C. 1983: “Every person who, under color of any statute,ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State orTerritory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to besubjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, orimmunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable tothe party injured in any action brought against a judicial officer for anact or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctiverelief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated ordeclaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section,any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbiashall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.”C. 28 U.S.C. 1343(3): (a) The district courts shall have original jx ofany civil action authorized by law to be commenced by any person; (3)To redress the deprivation, under color of any State law, statute, orordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any right, privilege orimmunity, secured by the Constitution of the United States or by anyAct of Congress providing for equal rights of citizens or all personswithin the jurisdiction of the United States. (b) For purposes of thissection: (1) the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a Stateand (2) any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District ofColumbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District ofColumbia.
D. Purposes of Section 1983:1. Supreme Court: Section 1983 opened the federal courts toprivate citizens, offering a uniquely federal remedyagainst incursions under the claimed authority of state lawupon rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the Nation2. To interpose the federal courts b/w the states and thepeople, as guardians of the people’s federal rights—toprotect the people from unconstitutional action under colorof state law, “whether that action be executive, legislative,or judicial”. (Mitchum v. Foster)3. Court indicated that section 1983 was designed both toprevent the states from violating the 14
amendment andcertain federal statutes and to compensate injuredplaintiffs for deprivations of their federal rights (Carey v.Piphus)E. Monroe v. Pape (1961) Established that state officials that abusedtheir positions still acted under color of law. Do not need to show thatthere was authority under state law, custom or usage. Instead, misuseof power possessed by virtue of state law and only because individualis clothed with power because of state law means under color of statelaw1. 1983 should be read against backdrop of tort law but there isno intent requirement for 1983 actions2. Municipalities are not “persons’ under 1983—only individuals.Note: this is not altogether still good law.F. Constitutional Torts and Exhaustion of Judicial Remedies1. Monroe: makes clear that a section 1983 COA for damagesneed not exhaust or pursue state judicial remediesbefore filing in a federal forum.2. Habeas Corpus: Prisoners, like other 1983 plaintiffs, need notexhaust state judicial remediesa.: A prisoner’s 1983 challenge to the fact or duration ofhis or her confinement is in substance a petitionfor habeas corpus and must be treated as such byfederal courts. Because federal habeas corpusstatute requires exhaustion of state remedies, theeffect would be the dismissal of the claim in federalcourt. (Preiser v. Rodriguez)
b. In order to recover damages for unconstitutionalconviction or imprisonment, or for other harmcaused by actions whose unlawfulness would render aconviction or sentence invalid, a 1983 plaintiff mustprove that the conviction/sentence has beenreversed on direct appeal, expunged by executiveorder, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorizedto make such a determination, or called into questionby a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. (Heckv. Humphrey)3. Due Process: in certain cases, a decision adverse to aplaintiff’s DP challenge amounts to a de factorequirement that state judicial remedies be exclusivelypursued.a. A 1983 claim based on DP was not stated where Psought relief from being listed as an activeshoplifter by police authorities. Court held that noliberty or property interest was implicated;plaintiff’s sole remedy was an action for defamation instate courts. Court did indicate that an official might beliable for consequences of defamatory stmts if Pcould demonstrate that he had suffered stigma plus aninfringement of some other interest. A P must alsoshow a distinct alteration or extinction of a previouslyrecognized right or status (Paul v. Davis)b. Procedural DP is not violated when school authoritiesimposed corporal punishment on students b/cstudents against whom excessive force was usedwould have a tort COA in the state courts. (Ingraham v.Wright)c. In certain circumstances, intentional deprivations ofproperty do not violate procedural DP whereadequate post-deprivations of remedies are available.(Hudson v. Palmer)4. Prospective Relief and the Younger Rulea. When state criminal judicial proceedings are alreadypending, a federal P seeking declaratory or

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