27 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2014
Date Written: 1989
As part of a Symposium discussion about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions from the 1988-1989 Term, author Martin Schwartz focuses his analysis on those §1983 cases decided by the Supreme Court that deal with rather fundamental aspects of §1983 police brutality litigation. These cases run a rather broad range, including the constitutional standards that govern the litigation of these claims, the question of municipal liability based upon inadequate training, and the right to recover attorney's fees. The discussion includes an analysis of the opinions issued in Graham v. Connor, which all but banned the shocks-the-conscience test from the world of §1983 litigation, and Brower v. County of Inyo, which is affectionately referred to as the “blind roadblock” case. As the discussion makes clear, it is rather significant that, in a Term in which the Supreme Court was widely criticized for cutting back on civil rights, the Supreme Court preserved and perhaps even facilitated the §1983 remedy for brutality claims. To be sure, the Court's decisions work important changes in terms of the day-to-day ground rules as to how these cases will now be litigated. But, in working these changes, the Court has preserved the §1983 remedy, at least for cases of egregious, or hardcore, brutality. The author also discusses City of Canton v. Harris and Jett v. Dallas Independent School District, which involved municipal liability, as well as four important attorney fee decisions rendered during the 1988-1989 Term.
Keywords: §1983 litigation, U.S. Supreme Court, constitutional standards, police brutality claims, inadequate training, municipal liability, attorney's fees
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