Claims for Damages for Violations of State Constitutional Rights -- Analysis of the Recent Court of Appeals Decision in Brown v. New York: The Resolved and Unresolved Issues
18 Pages Posted: 22 May 2014
Date Written: 1998
One year prior to the publication of this article, the New York State Court of Appeals decided a case of major importance, Brown v. State of New York. In Brown, the New York Court of Appeals held that individuals may assert claims for compensatory damages for violations of their rights protected by the equal protection and search and seizure guarantees of the New York State Constitution. The court held that these claims could be asserted against the State of New York in the Court of Claims and that they invoke respondeat superior liability.
It was not until the decision in the Brown case that the New York Court of Appeals had ever dealt with this issue, making it truly a landmark decision ---an opinion of first impression. This was the first time that the Court of Appeals had recognized claims for damages for rights guaranteed by the New York State Constitution. Despite numerous unresolved issues, Brown is a vital precedent. It is New York's counterpart to Section 1983 and the Bivens doctrine, filling a very significant remedial vacuum, and, in so doing, it furthered the rule of law and thus made the law meaningful. The author discusses and analyzes the Brown decision, both within the context of New York state law and the context of the history of the development of remedies for federal constitutional violations. The author also gives his predictions about the exciting litigation that will come as a result of Brown, concluding that it is going to be fascinating to watch how the Brown doctrine develops.
Keywords: Brown v. State of New York, violations of state constitutional rights, state equal protection rights, state freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, respondeat superior liability, Section 1983 litigation, Bivens doctrine
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