Supreme Court 2003-2004 Term: The § 1983 Decisions
22 Pages Posted: 2 May 2014
Date Written: 2005
Section 1983 plays a very powerful role in the enforcement of constitutional rights. This is a federal statute that authorizes individuals to recover monetary and prospective relief against state and local governmental officials and in some cases against municipalities. Section 1983 law is filled with a rather large array of defenses and doctrines. One might think of these defenses and doctrines as obstacles that can prevent the plaintiff from recovering relief even in a case where the plaintiff is able to demonstrate that a state or local official violated his or her constitutionally protected right. During the last thirty years or so, the Supreme Court has rendered an unusual number of decisions on virtually every aspect of § 1983 litigation. The Supreme Court decisional law itself is staggering in terms of its quantity. There is a decision from the Supreme Court that resolves virtually every fundamental issue which governs § 1983 litigation. But incredibly there is always a new issue on the horizon, and it continues from term to term. New issues come before the Supreme Court and the Court is very aware of the significance of these issues, even though some of the issues might be thought of as nuances. This Article focuses on the § 1983 decisions of the Supreme Court’s 2003-2004 Term, with a focus on the following issues: the right of prisoners to sue under § 1983; the right of taxpayers to sue under § 1983; qualified immunity; and Eleventh Amendment immunity.
Keywords: Section 1983, U.S. Supreme Court, federal constitutional rights, color of state law, deprivation of rights, prisoners' rights, taxpayer suits, qualified immunity, Eleventh Amendment immunity
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