Section 1983 Litigation (Discussion from The Supreme Court and Local Government Law: The 1994-1995 Term Symposium)
18 Pages Posted: 24 May 2014
Date Written: 1996
At a Symposium entitled, “The Supreme Court and Local Government Law: The 1994-1995 Term,” the author gave out five “awards” to U.S. Supreme Court decisions issued during that Term, all of which together provided a rich array of important decisions dealing with Section 1983 litigation. The first award went to the most important Section 1983 decision of that Term, Johnson v. Jones, which clarifies when an official may pursue an interlocutory appeal from the denial of qualified immunity, and placed an important limitation upon the official's right to pursue an immediate immunity appeal. The next award went to the best supporting actor or actress, Swint v. Chambers County Commission, in which the Court ruled that when a public official takes an immediate interlocutory appeal from the denial of qualified immunity, a municipal entity may not tag along and take an interlocutory appeal on the issue of municipal liability. The award for best documentary of the term went to Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corp., better known as “Amtrak,” in which the Supreme Court said that Amtrak is part of the Federal Government for First Amendment purposes, even though the Congress previously had said it is not a federal agency or establishment. The Scrooge-of-the-term award went to the Supreme Court's decision in Sandin v. Conner, as the decision effectively abolished the notion of state-created prisoner liberty interests. Lastly, the no-sweat award was given to the Supreme Court's decision in National Private Truck Council v. Oklahoma Tax Commission, where the Court held that it violates principles of federalism for a state court to use a federal remedy in a way that disrupts state functions; although the author perceived the decision as a type of extension of the doctrine of federalism, to the Court, it was no sweat.
Keywords: Section 1983 litigation, qualified immunity, interlocutory appeals, state-created prisoners' liberty interests, federalism
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