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Title 42 Section 1983 Lawsuits

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05/24/2012

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Title 42 Section 1983 Lawsuits

Title 42 Section 1983 Lawsuits

Civil rights lawsuits are one of a number of methods of holding the government, or people who act in a governmental capacity, responsible in court for their actions. This largely class of actions is called Public Law, a distinction commonly made in countries with a Civil Law system, but rarely so fundamentally defined in a Common Law system.

The main statute that authorized federal civil rights lawsuits is Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983, commonly called a “1983″ suit.

Sec. 1983. – Civil action for deprivation of rights
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, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia

The Civil Rights Act of 1871 is found in Title 42, section 1983 of the United States Code and so is commonly referred to as section 1983. It provides that anyone who, under color of state or local law, causes a person to be deprived of rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, or federal law, is liable to that person.

In short, if a government agent violates your God-given (Constitutional) rights, they can be held personally liable. What’s the difference in suing an individual verses the agency he/ she works for? In most cases the law only allows a certain amount (a maximum financial payment) to be issued and these cases are often settled out of court with no court orders being issued to the defendants prohibiting them from doing the same thing again. By suing an individual you are asking the court to renounce that persons action and hold them to the standards of law. This statue also provides for “vicarious liability”, meaning the agent’s supervisor, commander, trainer and anyone else who can be shown to have provided inadequate training and/or supervision is also liable for the actions of the defendant.

Defendants in 1983 lawsuits can be broken into two main categories, individuals, usually governmental employees or agents, and governments themselves. Among governments, distinctions are made between the federal government, state governments, and local governments. For example, as a result of the 11th Amendment to the United States, state governments can generally be sued for a violation of civil rights in state court, while local governments are routinely sued in federal court for violating an individual’s civil rights.

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