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Claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983

No federal statute is more important in contemporary American law than 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. The reasons for this observation are sourced in the historical development of litigation under this section.

Adopted as one of several Civil Rights’ laws in 1871, Section 1983 provides a remedy when state officials, acting “under color of state law,” deprive a plaintiff of rights protected by the federal Constitution or statutes.

Elements of Plaintiff’s Cause of Action

In order to advance a claim for violation of Section 1983, the plaintiff must plead and prove (1) a violation of rights protected by the federal Constitution or federal statute that is (2) proximately caused by (3) the conduct of a “person,” as defined in the Section 1983 jurisprudence, (4) who acted under “color” of “any statute, ordinance, etc. of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia.”

Defenses in Section 1983 Cases

Defenses available in Section 1983 cases generally effectuate competing social policies whereby courts are called upon to reconcile the constitutional rights of citizens and the practical realities of governmental operations. Accordingly, Section 1983 claims involve federalism doctrines such as abstention and Eleventh Amendment concerns, as well as an extensive structure of absolute and qualified immunities.

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