Inside the Supreme Court

Petition to Decision

Papers of Supreme Court Justices on Civil Rights Cases

David Achtenberg

Professor & Law Foundation Scholar

UMKC School of Law

Kansas City, MO 64110-2499

816-235-2382

AchtenbergD@umkc.edu

Petition to Decision
Home Page
 
Case Selection
 
What’s New
 
Finding Your Way Around
 
Coming Attractions
 
What You Will Find
 
What’s Coming Next









 
Petition to Decision
Home Page
 
Case Selection
 
What’s New
 
Finding Your Way Around
 
Coming Attractions
 
What You Will Find
 
What’s Coming Next

Coming Attractions

What New Material Can You Expect to See

Soon?

In the Long Run?

Coming Soon
Spring  2013:
Entirely New Case Files

Jett v. Dallas Independent School District
(§ 1983 supersedes 42 USC § 1981 as to suits against governmental actors)


Adding Newly Available Papers to Existing Case Files

Owen v. City of Independence
(A complete set of the newly available  Potter Stewart Papers relating to Owen should be added this Spring.)

Monell v. Department of Social Services
(Complete sets of the newly available Byron White and Potter Stewart Papers relating to Monell should be added this Spring or early Summer.)

 

 

 
The Long Range Plan
       The first phase of the Petition to Decision website is essentially a pilot for a larger, long range project.   The first phase cases all dealt with a cluster of issues surrounding § 1983 suits against cities, school districts, and other governmental entities:  Can they be sued at all under the statute?  What are the limits on their liability?  What are the elements of various theories of municipal liability?  What special defenses, if any, do local governments have?  Are states different?  The first phase can be seen as a digital chapter dealing with the Supreme Court’s internal struggles over these questions.
      The long range plan is for Petition to Decision to have digital chapters on the Court’s internal handling of a number of other important § 1983.  Future phases may include chapters on various issues such as:
  • Official Immunity:  Section 1983 permits suits against state and local officials, but is it fair for them to be sued if they acted in good faith?  What if an official made an understandable mistake  because, at the time he or she acted, the constitutional issue was unclear or had not yet been resolved? 
  • Color of Law:  Section 1983 permits suits only if the defendant was acting "under color of" state or local law.  Can an official be acting "under color of law" even though his or her actions are not authorized by state or local law?  What if those actions clearly violate state law?  Can private individuals, not employed by any governmental body, ever act "under color of" law?
  • Remedies:  Section 1983 provides that a person whose rights have been violated can bring an "action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress."  How should damages be measured in such an action?  Are punitive damages available?  If so, for what sort of conduct?  What other remedies are available?
  • Preclusion:  Section 1983 was intended to create a federal cause of action for violation of federally protected rights.  Should the plaintiff be bound by factual findings made in previous state court proceeding?  Should plaintiffs sometimes lose the right to bring their § 1983 causes of action because they failed to assert them in previous state court proceedings?  What will be the effect of decisions by other sorts of tribunals, e.g., arbitrators or state administrative agencies?