Constitutional Litigation Under Section 1983 and the Bivens Doctrine in the October 2008 Term
14 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2014
Date Written: 2010
Section 1983 is the major enforcer of individual federal constitutional rights. It authorizes individuals to enforce their constitutional rights against state and local officials; for example, prison officers and police officers, and against municipalities. It is the most important civil statute in American law. To its credit, the United States Supreme Court understands the significance of § 1983. For the past three decades, in virtually every single Term of the Court, it has decided a substantial number of cases dealing with different facets of § 1983 litigation. In the October 2008 Term, there was an unusual number of § 1983 decisions rendered by the United States Supreme Court, which represent a mixed bag of pro-plaintiff/pro-defendant decisions.
This Article discusses the Supreme Court decisions of the 2008 Term in six areas of § 1983 litigation: (1) constitutional rights enforceable under § 1983; (2) pleading requirements; (3) supervisory liability; (4) prosecutorial immunity; (5) qualified immunity; and (6) state court § 1983 actions against corrections officers. The author’s evaluation is that -- on the whole -- the defendants prevailed on the more important issues.
Keywords: U.S. Supreme Court, Section 1983, constitutional rights, Bivens doctrine, pleading requirements in Section 1983 actions, supervisory liability, prosecutorial immunity, qualified immunity, state court Section 1983 actions, actions against prison officers and police officers
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