Section 1983 Litigation/State Liability: The Eleventh Amendment

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Section 1983 Litigation
Table of Contents
Introduction to § 1983 Litigation
The Statute
Historical Background
Nature of § 1983 Litigation
Right to Trial by Jury
Jury Instructions
Constitutional Claims Against Federal Officials: The Bivens Doctrine
Section 1983 Does Not Encompass Claims Against Federal Officials
The Bivens Claim for Relief
Law Governing Bivens Claims
Elements of Claim, Functional Role, Pleading, and Jurisdiction
Elements of the § 1983 Claim
Functional Role of § 1983
Pleading § 1983 Claims
Federal Court Jurisdiction
State Court Jurisdiction
Section 1983 Plaintiffs
Persons Entitled to Bring Suit Under § 1983
Constitutional Rights Enforceable Under § 1983
Due Process Rights: In General
Procedural Due Process
Substantive Due Process Claims
Use of Force by Government Officials: Sources of Constitutional Protection
Arrests and Searches
Malicious Prosecution Claims Under Fourth Amendment
Conditions-of-Confinement Claims Under Eighth Amendment
First Amendment Claims
Equal Protection “Class-of-One” Claims
Enforcement of Federal Statutes Under § 1983
Enforcement of Federal “Rights”
Specific Comprehensive Scheme Demonstrating Congressional Intent to Foreclose § 1983 Remedy
Current Supreme Court Approach
Enforcement of Federal Regulations Under § 1983
Color of State Law and State Action
State and Local Officials
State Action Tests
Section 1983 Defendants
State Defendants
Interplay of “Person” and Eleventh Amendment Issues
Municipal Defendants
State Versus Municipal Policy Maker
Departments, Offices, and Commissions
Capacity of Claim: Individual Versus Official Capacity
Municipal Liability
Fundamental Principles of § 1983 Municipal Liability
Officially Promulgated Policy
Municipal Policy Makers
Custom or Practice
Inadequate Training
Inadequate Hiring
Pleading Municipal Liability Claims
Liability of Supervisors
Relationship Between Individual and Municipal Liability
Los Angeles v. Heller
If Plaintiff Prevails on Personal-Capacity Claim
“Cost Allocation Scheme”
State Liability: The Eleventh Amendment
Relationship Between Suable § 1983 “Person” and Eleventh Amendment Immunity
Eleventh Amendment Protects State Even When Sued by Citizen of Defendant State
State Liability in § 1983 Actions
Personal-Capacity Claims
Municipal Liability; the Hybrid Entity Problem
Eleventh Amendment Waivers
Eleventh Amendment Appeals
Personal-Capacity Claims: Absolute Immunities
Absolute Versus Qualified Immunity: The Functional Approach
Judicial Immunity
Prosecutorial Immunity
Witness Immunity
Legislative Immunity
Personal Liability: Qualified Immunity
Who May Assert Qualified Immunity? Private Party State Actors
Clearly Established Federal Law
Procedural Aspects of Qualified Immunity
Exhaustion of State Remedies
State Judicial Remedies: Parratt-Hudson Doctrine
Preiser, Heck, and Beyond
State Administrative Remedies; PLRA
Notice of Claim
Preclusion Defenses
State Court Judgments
Administrative Res Judicata
Arbitration Decisions
Statute of Limitations
Limitations Period
Relation Back
Survivorship and Wrongful Death
Wrongful Death
Abstention Doctrines
Pullman Abstention; State Certification Procedure
Younger Abstention
Colorado River Abstention
Burford Abstention
Domestic Relations Doctrine
Tax Injunction Act
Monetary Relief
Nominal and Compensatory Damages
Punitive Damages
Release-Dismissal Agreements
Prison Litigation Reform Act
Attorneys’ Fees
Section 1988 Fee Litigation
Prevailing Parties
Computation of Fee Award: Lodestar Adjustment Method
Other Fee Issues
Model Instructions
Model Instruction 1: Section 1983—Elements of Claim—Action Under Color of State Law
Model Instruction 2: Fourth Amendment Excessive Force Claim
Model Instruction 3: Eighth Amendment Prisoner Excessive Force Claim
Model Instruction 4: Fourth Amendment False Arrest Claim
Model Instruction 5: Municipal Liability—General Instruction
Model Instruction 6: Municipal Liability—Inadequate Training or Supervision
Model Instruction 7: Compensatory Damages
Model Instruction 8: Punitive Damages

Relationship Between Suable § 1983 “Person” and Eleventh Amendment Immunity[edit | edit source]

When a § 1983 (42 U.S. Code § 1983) claim is asserted against a state, state agency, or state official, the defendant may assert two separate yet closely related defenses, namely, that the defendant is not a suable “person” under § 1983; and that the defendant is shielded from liability by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. In Will v. Michigan Department of State Police,[1] the Supreme Court ruled that a state, a state agency, and a state official sued in her official capacity for monetary relief are not suable § 1983 “persons.” However, the Court in Will ruled that a state official sued in an official capacity is a suable person when sued for prospective relief.[2] Further, in Hafer v. Melo,[3] the Court held that a state official sued for damages in her personal capacity is a “suable” § 1983 person.

When the defendant asserts both “no person” and Eleventh Amendment defenses, a federal court should first determine the “no person” defense.[4] Because the Supreme Court’s definition of suable person in Will was informed by Eleventh Amendment immunity, and because the Court’s bifurcated definition of suable person that distinguishes between retrospective and prospective relief is symmetrical with Eleventh Amendment immunity, lower federal courts must have a good working knowledge of Eleventh Amendment law. This is so even though a federal court’s resolution of the “person” issue will always, or virtually always, render it unnecessary to decide the Eleventh Amendment issue. Even where a state has waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity, it would still not be a suable § 1983 “person.”[5] As explained in Part VI, substantial numbers of lower federal court § 1983 decisions continue to be based on the Eleventh Amendment.

Eleventh Amendment Protects State Even When Sued by Citizen of Defendant State[edit | edit source]

Under the Eleventh Amendment, the states have immunity from suit in federal courts.[6] Although the language in the Eleventh Amendment refers to a suit brought by a citizen of one state against another state, the Supreme Court has long interpreted it as granting the states sovereign immunity protection even when a state is sued in federal court by one of its own citizens.[7] The Court’s rationale is that there is a broader state sovereign immunity underlying the Eleventh Amendment, and that this broader immunity should be read into the Eleventh Amendment.

State Liability in § 1983 Actions[edit | edit source]

Section 1983 Does Not Abrogate Eleventh Amendment[edit | edit source]

The Supreme Court holds that the Eleventh Amendment applies to § 1983 claims against states and state entities because, in enacting the original version of § 1983, Congress did not intend to abrogate the states’ Eleventh Amendment immunity.[8] Therefore, a federal court award of § 1983 monetary relief against a state, state agency, or state official sued in an official capacity is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.[9]

Prospective Relief: Ex parte Young[edit | edit source]

Under the doctrine of Ex parte Young,[10] prospective relief against a state official in his official capacity to prevent future federal constitutional or federal statutory violations is not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The Court in Young reasoned that a state official who violated federal law is “stripped of his official or representative character” and, therefore, did not act for the state, but as an individual. Because the Eleventh Amendment protects states and state entities, and not individuals, the claim for prospective relief is not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The rationale behind the Young doctrine is fictitious because its prospective relief operates in substance against the state, and may have a substantial impact on the state treasury. The Young doctrine “permits federal courts to enjoin state officials to conform their conduct to requirements of federal law, notwithstanding a direct and substantial impact on the state treasury.”[11]

To determine whether a plaintiff has alleged a proper Young claim, the federal court “need only conduct a ‘straightforward inquiry into whether [the] complaint alleges an ongoing violation of federal law and seeks relief properly characterized as prospective.’”[12] In addition, the plaintiff must name as defendant the state official responsible for enforcing the contested statute in her official capacity;[13] a claim for prospective relief against the state itself, or a state agency, will be barred by the Eleventh Amendment.[14] Declaratory relief is within the Young doctrine’s reach, but only when there are ongoing or threatened violations of federal law.[15]

When a federal court grants Young prospective relief, it has the power to enforce that relief, including by ordering monetary sanctions payable out of the state treasury.[16] Similarly, a federal court’s enforcement against a state of a consent decree that is based on federal law does not violate the Eleventh Amendment.[17] The rationale is that “[i]n exercising their prospective powers under Ex Parte Young and Edelman v. Jordan, federal courts are not reduced to [granting prospective relief] and hoping for compliance. Once issued, an injunction may be enforced. Many of the court’s most effective enforcement weapons involve financial penalties.”[18]

In Pennhurst State School & Hospital v. Halderman,[19] the Supreme Court held that the Young doctrine does not apply to state law claims that are pendent (“supplemental”) to the § 1983 claim. Therefore, a supplemental state law claim that seeks to compel the state to comply with state law is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The Court reasoned that the Young fiction was born of the necessity of federal supremacy to enable the federal courts to compel compliance by the states with federal law, a factor not present when the plaintiff claims a violation of state law.[20] The Court in Pennhurst viewed federal court relief requiring a state to comply with its own state law as a great intrusion on state sovereignty.[21]

Personal-Capacity Claims[edit | edit source]

The Eleventh Amendment does not grant immunity when a § 1983 claim for damages is asserted against a state official in her personal capacity.[22] The monetary relief awarded on such a claim would not be payable out of the state treasury, but would come from the state official’s personal funds, which are not protected by the Eleventh Amendment.[23] The fact that the state agreed to indemnify the state official for a personal capacity monetary judgment does not create Eleventh Amendment immunity because the decision to indemnify is a voluntary policy choice of state government; it is not compelled by mandate of the federal court.[24]

Municipal Liability; the Hybrid Entity Problem[edit | edit source]

The Eleventh Amendment does not protect municipalities.[25] Thus, in contrast to a § 1983 federal court damage award against a state entity, a § 1983 damage award against a municipality is not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Many governing bodies have attributes of both state and local entities. For example, an entity may receive both state and local funding, or an entity that carries out a local function may be subject to state oversight. Federal courts frequently have to determine whether such a “hybrid entity” should be treated as an arm of the state or of local government.[26] In making this determination, the most important factor is whether the federal court judgment can be satisfied from state funds as opposed to municipal funds,[27] because the Eleventh Amendment is designed to protect the state treasury. A “hybrid entity” asserting Eleventh Amendment immunity bears the burden of demonstrating that it is an arm of the state protected by Eleventh Amendment immunity.[28]

In Mt. Healthy City School District Board of Education v. Doyle,[29] the Supreme Court found that because the defendant, the school board, was more like a municipality than an arm of the state, it was not entitled to assert Eleventh Amendment immunity. Although the school board received significant state funding and was subject to some oversight from the state board of education, it also had the power to raise its own funds by issuing bonds and levying taxes, and state law did not consider the school board an arm of the state. The Court found that, “[o]n balance,” the school board was “more like a county or city than it [was] like an arm of the state.”[30]

In Lake Country Estates, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency,[31] the Court followed its Mt. Healthy approach and adopted the presumption that an agency created pursuant to an interstate compact is not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity “[u]nless there is good reason to believe that the States structured the new agency to enable it to enjoy the special constitutional protection of the States themselves, and that Congress concurred in that purpose . . . .”[32]

Eleventh Amendment Waivers[edit | edit source]

A state may voluntarily waive its Eleventh Amendment immunity, but these waivers are relatively rare. The Supreme Court invokes a strong presumption against Eleventh Amendment waiver, and holds that waiver will be found only if the state agrees to subject itself to liability in federal court by “express language or . . . overwhelming [textual] implications.”[33] The Court found a deliberate waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity, however, where the state, after waiving its immunity from state law claims in state court, removed the state suit to federal court.[34] The Court reasoned that it “would seem anomalous or inconsistent” for a state to invoke the judicial power of the federal court while, at the same time, asserting that the Eleventh Amendment deprived the federal court of judicial power.[35]

Eleventh Amendment Appeals[edit | edit source]

In Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc.,[36] the Supreme Court held that a district court’s denial of Eleventh Amendment immunity is immediately appealable to the court of appeals. The Court relied on the fact that the Eleventh Amendment grants states not only immunity from liability, but also “immunity from suit” and from the burdens of litigation.[37] It found that an immediate appeal was necessary to vindicate this immunity as well as the states’ “dignitary interests.”[38]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 491 U.S. 58 (1989).
  2. Id. at 71 n.10.
  3. 502 U.S. 21 (1991).
  4. Vt. Agency of Natural Res. v. United States, 529 U.S. 765, 771 (2000) (qui tam action under False Claims Act); Power v. Summers, 226 F.3d 815, 818 (7th Cir. 2000) (applying Vermont Agency to § 1983 action). Cf. Settles v. U.S. Parole Comm’n, 429 F.3d 1098, 1104 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (“by failing to raise … in the district court that it is not a ‘person’ under § 1983, the Commission” waived the issue). See infra Chapter 8.
  5. The Supreme Court has indicated that the Will “no person” defense is not waivable. Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 69 (1997).
  6. U.S. Const. amend. XI. The circuits are in conflict over whether a federal court must reach an Eleventh Amendment defense before addressing the merits. See authorities cited in Nair v. Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority, 443 F.3d 469, 474–77 (6th Cir. 2006).
  7. Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 10 (1890) (holding citizen could not sue state in federal court without that state’s consent). See Seminole Tribe v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996) (reaffirming Hans).
  8. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979).
  9. Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974) (stating that “when the action is in essence one for the recovery of money from the state, the state is the real, substantial party in interest and is entitled to invoke its [Eleventh Amendment] sovereign immunity from suit even though individual officials are nominal defendants”) (quoting Ford Motor Co. v. Dep’t of Treasury, 323 U.S. 459, 464 (1945)). Even if a third party agrees to indemnify the state, the Eleventh Amendment still protects the state from a federal court monetary judgment. Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 431 (1997).
  10. 209 U.S. 123 (1908).
  11. Milliken v. Bradley, 433 U.S. 267, 289 (1977). See also Antrican v. Odom, 290 F.3d 178, 185 (4th Cir. 2002) (observing that “simply because the implementation of such prospective relief would require the expenditure of substantial sums of [state] money does not remove a claim from the Ex Parte Young exception”).
  12. Verizon Md. Inc. v. Pub. Serv. Comm’n of Md., 535 U.S. 635, 645 (2002) (quoting Idaho v. Coeur d’Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 296 (1997) (O’Connor, J., concurring)). The Supreme Court held that a federal court suit brought by a state agency seeking prospective relief against state officials in their official capacities based upon ongoing violations of federal law is within the doctrine of Ex parte Young, and thus not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Va. Office for Protection & Advocacy v. Stewart, 131 S. Ct. 1632 (2011). The Court in Virginia Office ruled that the validity of a Young claim does not “turn on the identity of the plaintiff,” id. at 1639, and that a state’s sovereignty interests are not more greatly diminished in a suit brought by a state agency than in a suit brought by a private party. Id. at 1640.
  13. See Greenawalt v. Ind. Dep’t of Corr., 397 F.3d 587, 589 (7th Cir. 2005) (noting “section 1983 does not permit injunctive relief against state officials sued in their individual as distinct from their official capacity”).
  14. See, e.g., Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978).
  15. See Green v. Mansour, 474 U.S. 64, 73 (1985).
  16. See Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 691 (1978).
  17. See Frew v. Hawkins, 540 U.S. 431, 440 (2004).
  18. Hutto, 437 U.S. at 690.
  19. 465 U.S. 89 (1984).
  20. Id. at 99–100.
  21. Id.
  22. Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 30–31 (1991).
  23. Id.
  24. See, e.g., Stoner v. Wis. Dep’t of Agric., Trade & Consumer Prot., 50 F.3d 481, 482–83 (7th Cir. 1995).
  25. See Missouri v. Jenkins, 495 U.S. 33, 56 n.20 (1990); Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.54 (1978); Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280–81 (1977). See also N. Ins. Co. of N.Y. v. Chatham Cnty., 547 U.S. 189, 194 (2006) (sovereign immunity does not protect municipalities); People for Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Gittens, 396 F.3d 416, 425 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (“The District of Columbia is a municipality for the purpose of § 1983.”).
  26. See Mt. Healthy, 429 U.S. at 280. The courts of appeals have articulated a variety of formulas to determine whether an entity is an arm of the state or of local government. See, e.g., Ross v. Jefferson Cnty. Dep’t of Health, 695 F.3d 1183, 1187 (11th Cir. 2012) (court should consider (1) how state law defines entity; (2) degree of state control over entity; (3) where entity derives funds; (4) who is responsible for judgment against entity); Peirick v. Ind. Univ.-Purdue Univ. Indianapolis Athletic Dep’t, 510 F.3d 681, 695–96 (7th Cir. 2007) (court should evaluate extent of entity’s financial autonomy from state, which requires consideration of: (1) extent of entity’s state funding; (2) state’s oversight and control of entity’s fiscal affairs; (3) entity’s ability to raise funds; (4) whether entity is subject to state taxation; and (5) whether judgment against entity would result in increase in state appropriations to entity; court should also consider entity’s general legal status); Febres v. Camden Bd. of Educ., 445 F.3d 227, 229–30 (3d Cir. 2006) (court should give “equal consideration” to: “payment from the state treasury, status under state law, and autonomy”; in “close cases,” the “prime guide” should be protecting state from federal court judgments payable out of state treasury); Ernst v. Rising, 427 F.3d 351, 359 (6th Cir. 2005) (en banc) (court should consider “(1) whether the state would be responsible for a judgment . . . ; (2) how state law defines the entity; (3) what degree of control the state maintains over the entity; and (4) the source of the entity’s funding”; whether state will be liable for judgment is most important inquiry).
  27. See Ernst, 427 F.3d at 359 (“foremost factor . . . is the state treasury’s potential legal liability for the judgment, not whether the state treasury will pay for the judgment in that case”).
  28. Woods v. Rondout Valley Cent. Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 466 F.3d 232, 237–39 (2d Cir. 2006).
  29. 429 U.S. 274 (1977).
  30. Id. at 280–81.
  31. 440 U.S. 391 (1979).
  32. Id. at 401. See also Hess v. Port Auth. Trans-Hudson Corp., 513 U.S. 30, 52 (1994) (holding injured railroad workers could assert federal statutory right under Federal Employers Liability Act to recover damages against Port Authority, and that concerns underlying Eleventh Amendment—“the States’ solvency and dignity”—were not touched).
  33. Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 673 (1974) (quoting Murray v. Wilson Distilling Co., 213 U.S. 151, 171 (1909)). A state’s waiver of sovereign immunity from liability in state court is not waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity in federal courts. Fla. Dep’t of Health v. Fla. Nursing Home Ass’n, 450 U.S. 147, 149–50 (1981) (per curiam).
  34. Lapides v. Bd. of Regents, 535 U.S. 613 (2002).
  35. Id. at 619.
  36. 506 U.S. 139 (1993).
  37. Id. at 144.
  38. Id. at 146. The law of the First Circuit, that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is treated as a state for purposes of the Eleventh Amendment, was not challenged in Metcalf & Eddy, and the Court expressed no view on the issue. Id. at 141 n.1.