This is the sixth of my section 1983 primers. I previously blogged on section 1983’s history and purposes (post of 10-29-09); on Monroe v. Pape (post of 11-29-09); on constitutional states of mind (post of 2-6-10); on causation in fact and the Mt. Healthy burden-shift rule (post of 4-25-10); and on statutes of limitations in section 1983 cases (post of 10-27-11).
Overview of Preclusion
This post addresses the important practical topic of claim preclusion (res judicata, which concerns claims that were or could have been raised), and issue preclusion (collateral estoppel, which concerns issues that were raised and adjudicated) in section 1983 cases. Preclusion concerns arise in section 1983 federal court litigation when there is a prior final state judicial or administrative proceeding that involved the same parties (or their privies) and implicated (or could have implicated) the same issues.
To what extent may those claims or issues be relitigated in a subsequent section 1983 federal court proceeding? As it turns out, the answer in each case depends, as a matter of federal law, on the forum state’s preclusion law.
1. The Relevance of 28 U.S.C. section 1738
Like statute of limitations issues in section 1983 litigation, preclusion issues involve a mixture of federal and state law. This is because 28 U.S.C. section 1738 requires federal courts to give the same effect to prior state judicial decisions as would the courts of the forum state. Section 1738 is based on the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, Art. IV, section 1.
2. The Preclusive Effect of Prior State Criminal Proceedings
(a) Suppose that a defendant in a criminal case makes a Fourth Amendment motion to suppress evidence, which the state court denies, and the defendant is acquitted anyway. The defendant then becomes a section 1983 plaintiff seeking damages against the law enforcement defendants for violating his Fourth Amendment rights. What is the preclusive effect, if any, of that state court decision on the plaintiff’s section 1983 Fourth Amendment claim? Read the rest of this entry »
I spoke on November 3, 2011, at Loyola Law School (New Orleans) at a program entitled “Prosecutorial Immunity: Deconstructing Connick v. Thompson.” The audience included attorneys, law students, professors and members of the public.
In this post, I provide a link to the resulting article, The Long and Winding Road from Monroe to Connick, recently published in 13 Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law 247 (2012).
The abstract of this article and the link appear below.
In this article, I address the historical and doctrinal development of § 1983 local government liability, beginning with Monroe v. Pape in 1961 and culminating in the Supreme Court’s controversial 2011 failure to train decision in Connick v. Thompson. Connick has made it exceptionally difficult for § 1983 plaintiffs to prevail against local governments in failure to train cases. In the course of my analysis, I also consider the oral argument and opinions in Connick as well as various aspects of § 1983 doctrine. I ultimately situate Connick in the Court’s federalism jurisprudence which doubles back to Justice Frankfurter’s view of federalism set out in his dissent in Monroe.
Here is the link: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2118009
I hope you find the article of interest.
As almost everyone knows by now, this decision upheld the individual mandate, 5-4, under the Taxing Power, in a surprising opinion by Chief Justice Roberts. This decision also upheld, for the most part, the Congressional expansion of Medicaid, under the Spending Power, to include millions of poor uninsured individuals.
This discussion is available at oyez.org.
I believe you will find it informative.
I blogged on January 18, 2012, about the constitutional challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“the Act”) , where I expressed the view that the individual mandate was clearly constitutional under the Commerce Clause. Also, on February 24, 2012, I posted a video presentation I made (with others) to the Shriver Center about all aspects of the Act. See these posts for background.
Today, the United States Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, in an opinion (PDF) by Chief Justice Roberts, that the individual mandate was constitutional under the Taxing Power of Congress, albeit not under the Commerce Clause.
The Court also upheld the Act’s significant expansion of Medicaid to include individuals under 65 whose income is under 133% of the federal poverty line, except insofar as the Act provides that states that do not opt into the expansion will lose all of their Medicaid funding.
The Chief Justice’s opinion, Justice Ginsburg‘s concurring in part and dissenting in part opinion (joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan with regard to the Commerce Clause and the Taxing Power, and by Justice Sotomayor with regard to the Spending Power) and the dissenting opinion of Justices Kennedy, Scalia, Alito and Thomas on every issue except for the Commerce Clause and the Anti-Injunction Act, are available on the Court’s website. They are all quite lengthy.
Here are some points worth noting. Read the rest of this entry »
Reichle v. Howards, 132 S. Ct. — (2012), decided on June 4, 2012
I blogged on March 29, 2012, about the Supreme Court‘s grant of certiorari in Reichle v. Howards, a case arising out of the Tenth Circuit. As noted there, the Supreme Court had granted certiorari to deal with the important question of whether there should be a probable cause defense to a Bivens First Amendment claim that federal law enforcement officers arrested the plaintiff because of their disagreement with his speech.
(See that post for relevant background, including the important decision in Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250 (2006).)
The Tenth Circuit Decision
The defendants were two Secret Service Agents who were on protective detail for Vice President Cheney when they arrested the plaintiff after his encounter with the Vice President: probable cause was provided by the fact that the plaintiff lied to the defendants about touching the Vice President, a violation of federal law. The plaintiff alleged, though, that he was actually arrested in violation of the First Amendment because he was overheard saying he wanted to ask the Vice President personally “how many kids he had killed.”
The Tenth Circuit held on the merits that there was no such probable cause defense to the First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim, although it noted the split in the circuits on this issue. The Tenth Circuit also found that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity on this claim: they violated clearly settled First Amendment circuit law when they arrested the plaintiff because of his speech, even though they had independent Fourth Amendment probable cause grounds to arrest him. Howards v. McCaughlin, 634 F.3d 1131 (10th Cir. 2011), with Judge Kelly concurring in part and dissenting in part.
The Supreme Court Decision
The Supreme Court reversed in an opinion by Justice Thomas. The Court avoided deciding whether probable cause was a defense to a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim. Instead, it ruled that the defendants were protected by qualified immunity because they did not violate clearly settled First Amendment law: “This Court has never recognized a First Amendment right to be free from a retaliatory arrest that is supported by probable cause; nor was such a right otherwise clearly settled at the time of Howards’ arrest.” Read the rest of this entry »
I blogged on August 22, 2011, about the Supreme Court’s controversial no-affirmative due process duty decision in DeShaney v. County of Winnebago, 489 U.S. 189 (1989). I also set out several then-current circuit court decisions dealing with DeShaney issues. Please see that post for background.
I came across the following more recent decisions from the First, Fifth, Seventh and Eighth Circuits in the course of preparing the 2012 Update to my treatise, CIVIL RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES LITIGATION: THE LAW OF SECTION 1983 (4th ed. 2012)(forthcoming in September).
Coscia v. Town of Pembroke, 659 F.3d 37 (1st Cir. 2011)
The decedent’s mother, representing the estate, sued police officer and others, alleging that they failed to provide medical services to her 21 year-old son who threatened suicide while in police custody following a one-car accident, and who in fact committed suicide about fourteen hours after his release by stepping in front of a train. During the time he was in custody he attempted to engage in self-destructive behavior and was deemed a high suicide risk. Nevertheless, he was not examined by a doctor but was released on his own recognizance. Reversing the district court and dismissing the complaint, the First Circuit stated: “We … hold that in the absence of a risk of harm created or intensified by state action there is no due process liability for harm suffered by a prior detainee after release from custody in circumstances that do not effectively extend any state impediment to exercising self-help or to receiving whatever aid by others may normally be available.”
Comment: Note the proximate cause/remoteness problem for the plaintiff here in addition to the danger creation issue. Read the rest of this entry »
Filarsky v. Delia
I blogged on November 10, 2011, about the Supreme Court‘s grant of certiorari in Delia v. City of Rialto, 621 F. 3d 1069 (9th Cir. 2011), sub nom Filarsky v. Delia, No. 10-1018, where the Ninth Circuit held that a private attorney retained by the government was not entitled to qualified immunity, even though all of the government actors involved in the same challenged conduct were so protected because they did not violate clearly settled law.
The Question Presented was the following: “Whether a lawyer retained to work with government employees in conducting an internal affairs investigation is precluded from asserting qualified immunity solely because of his status as a ‘private’ lawyer rather than a government employee.”
In a unanimous decision handed down on April 17, 2012, and written by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court ruled that an individual hired by the government to work for it is indeed protected by qualified immunity, even though that individual does not work for the government on a permanent or full-time basis. Filarsky v. Delia, 132 S. Ct. — (2012).
As mentioned in the prior post, the major purpose of qualified immunity, with its emphasis on violations of clearly settled law, is to provide government officials and employees with a margin for error so that they are not unduly chilled in the exercise of their independent judgment. However, situations occasionally arise where private individuals are sued under section 1983 under the theory that they acted jointly, or conspired, with state or local government officials or employees. In such cases, they act under color of law and can be held liable in damages under section 1983. The question arose: are such private individuals entitled to the same qualified immunity as government officials and employees? Read the rest of this entry »