Neither States nor state officials acting in their official capacities are "persons" within meaning of 1983. This case presents the question whether a State, or an official of the State while acting in his or her official capacity, is a "person" within the meaning of Rev. Petitioner Ray Will filed suit in Michigan Circuit Court alleging various violations of the United States and Michigan Constitutions as grounds for a claim under 1983. He alleged that he had been denied a promotion to a data systems analyst position with the Department of State Police for an improper reason, that is, because his brother had been a student activist and the subject of a "red squad" file maintained by respondent.
The Circuit Court remanded the case to the Michigan Civil Service Commission for a grievance hearing. The Michigan Court of Appeals vacated the judgment against the Department of State Police, holding that a State is not a person under 1983, but remanded the case for determination of the possible immunity of the Director of State Police from liability for damages. The Michigan Supreme Court's holding that a State is not a person under 1983 conflicts with a number of state- and federal-court decisions to the contrary. But in Monell, the Court overruled Monroe, holding that a municipality was a person under 1983. Some courts, including the Michigan Supreme Court here, have construed our decision in Quern v. We observe initially that if a State is a "person" within the meaning of 1983, the section is to be read as saying that "every person, including a State, who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects .
This approach is particularly applicable where it is claimed that Congress has subjected the States to liability to which they had not been subject before.
The language of 1983 also falls far short of satisfying the ordinary rule of statutory construction that if Congress intends to alter the "usual constitutional balance between the States and the Federal Government," it must make its intention to do so "unmistakably clear in the language of the statute." Atascadero State Hospital v. Section 1983 provides a federal forum to remedy many deprivations of civil liberties, but it does not provide a federal forum for litigants who seek a remedy against a State for alleged deprivations of civil liberties. This does not mean, as petitioner suggests, that we think that the scope of the Eleventh Amendment and the scope of 1983 are not separate issues. Our conclusion is further supported by our holdings that in enacting 1983, Congress did not intend to override well-established immunities or defenses under the common law.
Although there were sharp and heated debates, the discussion of 1 of the bill, which contained the present 1983, was not extended. Dictionary Act, like 1983 itself and its legislative history, fails to evidence a clear congressional intent that States be held liable.
Petitioner asserts, alternatively, that state officials should be considered "persons" under 1983 even though acting in their official capacities. We hold that neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are "persons" under 1983. A large number of courts have agreed with the Michigan Supreme Court that a State is not a person under 1983. JUSTICE BRENNAN appears to confuse this precise definition of the phrase with its use "in a rather loose way," see Black, supra, at 143, to refer to the state (as opposed to a State).
JUSTICE BRENNAN, with whom JUSTICE MARSHALL, JUSTICE BLACKMUN, and JUSTICE STEVENS join, dissenting.
Because this case was brought in state court, the Court concedes, the Eleventh Amendment is inapplicable here. One might expect that this statutory question would generate a careful and thorough analysis of the language, legislative history, and general background of 1983.
The Court invokes, first, the "often-expressed understanding" that "`in common usage, the term "person" does not include the sovereign, [and] statutes employing the [word] are ordinarily construed to exclude it.'" Ante, at 64, quoting Wilson v. The idea that the word "persons" ordinarily excludes the sovereign can be traced to the "familiar principle that the King is not bound by any act of Parliament unless he be named therein by special and particular words." Dollar Savings Bank v. Even if this interpretive principle were relevant to this case, the Court's invocation of it to the exclusion of careful statutory analysis is in error. The only principle of statutory construction employed by the Court that would justify a perfunctory and inconclusive analysis of a statute's language and history is one that is irrelevant to this case. Where the Eleventh Amendment applies, the Court has devised a clear-statement principle more robust than its requirement of clarity in any other situation. That this Court has generated a uniquely daunting requirement of clarity in Eleventh Amendment cases explains why Quern v.
The singularity of this Court's approach to statutory interpretation in Eleventh Amendment cases also refutes the Court's argument that, given Quern's holding, it would make no sense to construe 1983 to include States as "persons." See ante, at 66. In short, the only principle of statutory interpretation that permits the Court to avoid a careful and thorough analysis of 1983's language and history is the clear-statement principle that this Court has come to apply in Eleventh Amendment cases - a principle that is irrelevant to this state-court action. Although 1983 itself does not define the term "person," we are not without a statutory definition of this word. Both before and after the time when the Dictionary Act and 1983 were passed, the phrase "bodies politic and corporate" was understood to include the States. While it is certainly true that the phrase "bodies politic and corporate" referred to private and public corporations, see ante, at 69, and n. Because I recognize that both uses of this phrase were deemed valid when 1983 and the Dictionary Act were passed, the Court accuses me of "confus[ing] [the] precise definition of [this] phrase with its use `in a rather loose way,'" "to refer to the state (as opposed to a State)." Ante, at 70, n. In deciding what the phrase "bodies politic and corporate" means, furthermore, I do not see the relevance of the meaning of the term "public corporation." See ante, at 69-70, n.
Court held that it would require "an express definition" to hold that the word "persons" included the Federal Government, and that under state law the term "corporations" applied only to corporations created under the laws of New York. This last point helps to explain why it is a matter of small importance that the Dictionary Act's definition of "person" as including bodies politic and corporate was retroactively withdrawn when the federal statutes were revised in 1874.
Thus, the question before us is whether the presumption that the word "person" in 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 included bodies politic and corporate - and hence the States - is overcome by anything in the statute's language and history. Unimpressed by such arguments, the Court simply asserts that reading "States" where the statute mentions "person" would be "decidedly awkward." Ante, at 64. Taking the example closest to this case, we might have observed in Monell that 1983 was clumsily written if it included municipalities, since these, too, may act only under color of state authority.
The legislative history and background of the statute confirm that the presumption created by the Dictionary Act was not overridden in 1 of the 1871 Act, and that, even without such a presumption, it is plain that "person" in the 1871 Act must include the States. As to the more general historical background of 1, we too easily forget, I think, the circumstances existing in this country when the early civil rights statutes were passed.
This was a Congress in the midst of altering the "`balance between the States and the Federal Government.'" Ante, at 65, quoting Atascadero State Hospital v. The Court appears to be driven to this peculiar result in part by its view that "in enacting 1983, Congress did not intend to override well-established immunities or defenses under the common law." Ante, at 67. For my part, I would reverse the judgment below and remand for resolution of the question whether Michigan would assert common-law sovereign immunity in defense to this suit and, if so, whether that assertion of immunity would preclude the suit. Given the suggestion in the court below that Michigan enjoys no common-law immunity for violations of its own Constitution, Smith v. Moreover, even if that court decided that the State's waiver of immunity did not apply to 1983 suits, there is a substantial question whether Michigan could so discriminate between virtually identical causes of action only on the ground that one was a state suit and the other a federal one.
Because the court below disposed of the case on the ground that States were not "persons" within the meaning of 1983, it did not pass upon these difficult and important questions.
In our administration of 1983, we have also relied on fictions to protect the illusion that a sovereign State, absent consent, may not be held accountable for its delicts in federal court. An official-capacity suit is the typical way in which we have held States responsible for their duties under federal law. Our treatment of States as "persons" under 1983 is also exemplified by our decisions holding that ancillary relief, such as attorney's fees, may be awarded directly against the State. The Civil Rights Act of 1871 was "intended to provide a remedy, to be broadly construed, against all forms of official violation of federally protected rights." Monell v. The Court concludes, however, that "a state official in his or her official capacity, when sued for injunctive relief, would be a person under 1983," ante, at 71, n.
Even though there has been a palpable change in the mood as to the continued viability of the large law firm model, BigLaw still is a crowd-drawer. If you are a student considering a degree even higher than the undergraduate one you recently earned, you're most likely in that unenviable position of wondering how to finance that degree.
There is a lot of focus lately on the rather amorphous state of gay rights and transgender peoples’ civil liberties in this country as of late. Marvin Castellanos' attorney spent more than 100 hours toiling on Castellanos' workers' comp claim.
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Yesterday, we wrote about a former Squire Patton Boggs associate who took to the Internet to decry the gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and "a very clear glass ceiling" found at major law firms. Her complaints line up with what many others have said: the male-dominated legal industry can be a horrible place for mothers.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the legal profession is the one of the least (if not the least) racially diverse professions in the nation -- 88 percent of lawyers are white. Continue reading As Law School Applications Fall, the Whitest Profession Gets More Diverse.


A disgruntled ex-BigLaw associate took to Reddit yesterday to call out her old firm and explain why she left the law. So Johnson quit her job, walked away from her a nearly $400,000-a-year income, and now wants everyone to know just how awful her time in BigLaw was. Greedy Associates covers the attorney lifestyle-- from law school to career and everything in between. Federal grand jury indictment of Alaskan Republican Senator Ted Stevens charging him with concealing valuable gifts from an oil services company and its CEO on his Congressional financial disclosure forms. 1983 alleging that respondents, the Department of State Police and the Director of State Police in his official capacity, had denied him a promotion for an improper reason.
Named as defendants were the Department of State Police and the Director of State Police in his official capacity, also a respondent here.
The Civil Service Commission ultimately found in petitioner's favor, ruling that respondents had refused to promote petitioner because of "partisan considerations." App. The Michigan Supreme Court granted discretionary review and affirmed the Court of Appeals in part and reversed in part. This common usage of the term "person" provides a strong indication that "person" as used in 1983 likewise does not include a State. That Congress, in passing 1983, had no intention to disturb the States' Eleventh Amendment immunity and so to alter the federal-state balance in that respect was made clear in our decision in Quern. It is an "established principle of jurisprudence" that the sovereign cannot be sued in its own courts without its consent.
He refers us to various parts of the vigorous debates accompanying the passage of 1983 and revealing that it was the failure of the States to take appropriate action that was undoubtedly the motivating force behind 1983. And although in other respects the impact on state sovereignty was much talked about, no one suggested that 1 would subject the States themselves to a damages suit under federal law.
We find nothing substantial in the legislative history that leads us to believe that Congress intended that the word "person" in 1983 included the States of the Union.
As we noted in Quern, that Act, while adopted prior to 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, was adopted after 2 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, from which 1 of the 1871 Act was derived.
True, prior to Monell the Court had reasoned that if municipalities were not persons then surely States also were not. In this case, petitioner named as defendant not only the Michigan Department of State Police but also the Director of State Police in his official capacity. But a suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against the official's office. This confusion is revealed most clearly in JUSTICE BRENNAN's reliance on the 1979 edition of Black's Law Dictionary, which defines "body politic or corporate" as "[a] social compact by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good." Post, at 79.
It is ironic, to say the least, that the Court chooses this interpretive rule in explaining why the Dictionary Act is not decisive, since the rule is relevant only when the word "persons" has no statutory definition. The purpose, the subject matter, the context, the legislative history, and the executive interpretation of the statute are aids to construction which may indicate an intent, by the use of the term, to bring state or nation within the scope of the law.
This is the notion "that if Congress intends to alter the `usual constitutional balance between the States and the Federal Government,' it must make its intention to do so `unmistakably clear in the language of the statute.'" Ante, at 65, quoting Atascadero State Hospital v.
As the Court notes, Atascadero was an Eleventh Amendment case; the "constitutional balance" to which Atascadero refers is that struck by the Eleventh Amendment as this Court has come to interpret it.
Indeed, just today, the Court has intimated that this clear-statement principle is not simply a means of discerning congressional intent.
Because only the Eleventh Amendment permits use of this clear-statement principle, the holding of Quern v. This is so, the Court suggests, because such a construction would permit suits against States in state but not federal court, even though a major purpose of Congress in enacting 1983 was to provide a federal forum for litigants who had been deprived of their constitutional rights.
Since the question whether Congress has provided a federal forum for damages suits against the States is answered by applying a uniquely strict interpretive principle, see supra, at 75, the Court should not pretend that we have, in Quern, answered the question whether Congress intended to provide a federal forum for such suits, and then reason backwards from that "intent" to the conclusion that Congress must not have intended to allow such suits to proceed in state court. In my view, a careful and detailed analysis of 1983 leads to the conclusion that States are "persons" within the meaning of that statute.
9, this fact does not draw into question the conclusion that this phrase also applied to the States.
27, - the model for 1 of the 1871 Act - was passed before the Dictionary Act, see ante, at 69, similarly eludes me.
In fact, both the majority and dissent in Monell emphasized the 1871 version of the Dictionary Act, but neither saw fit even to mention the 1874 revision of this statute.
In such a setting, one cannot reasonably deny the significance of 1983's explicit focus on state action. But 1983 extends as well to natural persons, who do not necessarily so act; in order to ensure that they would be liable only when they did so, the statute needed the under-color-of-law requirement.
Suffice it to say that, in my view, the legislative history of this provision, though spare, demonstrates that Congress recognized and accepted the fact that the statute was directed at the States themselves.
In 1868 a wave of murders and assaults was launched including assassinations designed to keep Negroes from the polls. A few months after the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865, Congress, on April 9, 1866, enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1866 . If States are not "persons" within the meaning of 1983, then they may not be sued under that statute regardless of whether they have consented to suit. Jordan, supra, at 340, but it also renders ineffective the choices some States have made to permit such suits against them. But the question whether States are "persons" under 1983 is separate and distinct from the question whether they may assert a defense of common-law sovereign immunity. Such an approach entrenches the effect of common-law immunity even where the immunity itself has been waived.
I therefore would remand this case to the state court to resolve these questions in the first instance. Once one strips away the Eleventh Amendment overlay applied to actions in federal court, it is apparent that the Court in these cases has treated the State as the real party in interest both for the purposes of granting prospective and ancillary relief and of denying retroactive relief. Such a suit, we have explained, "`generally represent[s] only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'" Kentucky v. Subsequent decisions have adhered to the position that equitable relief - even "a remedy that might require the expenditure of state funds," Papasan, supra, at 282 - may be awarded to ensure future compliance by a State with a substantive federal question determination. 10, while that same party sued in the same official capacity is not a person when the plaintiff seeks monetary relief. Consumers and practitioners alike are always interested the latest on BigLaw scandals, career prospects, and money reports. This year, the biggest winner in the gross revenue category is Latham & Watkins, hardly surprising. She'd worked for the Obama presidential campaign, clerked for an appellate judge, practiced at a BigLaw firm, and, at 34, landed an enviable gig as a government lawyer in the Department of Homeland Security. Well, recently Sallie Mae became the latest lender to offer its own version of the new type of "parent loans" called "Smart Option Student Loan" intended to help well-meaning family members fund their children's education -- maybe yours. Between religious freedom laws and the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with one’s chosen gender identity, political sentiment is fraught with controversy. And after defeating numerous defenses from Castellanos' employer and its insurer, the attorney was victorious. That's because Florida law sets a mandatory fee schedule based on the amount won -- without allowing consideration of whether those awards are reasonable.
And it's a pretty terrible place to be a father as well, according to the experience of male lawyers who've sought to take paternity leave. There's evidence to suggest that as law school applications fell in the last few years, the number of Latinos and Blacks rose by proportion. Kristen Jarvis Johnson says she was a partner-track associate for nine years with Squire Patton Boggs. Department of Homeland Security's Deputy Press Secretary, Brian Doyle, alleging that he tried to seduce someone over the internet whom he believed was a 14-year-old child, sending pornographic video images via e-mail. The state-court judge ruled for petitioner, finding that both respondents were "persons" under 1983, which provides that any person who deprives an individual of his or her constitutional rights under color of state law shall be liable to that individual.
For the reasons that follow, we reaffirm today what we had concluded prior to Monell and what some have considered implicit in Quern: that a State is not a person within the meaning of 1983. Given that a principal purpose behind the enactment of 1983 was to provide a federal forum for civil rights claims, and that Congress did not provide such a federal forum for civil rights claims against States, we cannot accept petitioner's argument that Congress intended nevertheless to create a cause of action against States to be brought in state courts, which are precisely the courts Congress sought to allow civil rights claimants to avoid through 1983. The inference must be drawn, it is urged, that Congress must have intended to subject the States themselves to liability.
And surely nothing in the debates rises to the clearly expressed legislative intent necessary to permit that construction.
Moreover, we disagree with JUSTICE BRENNAN that at the time the Dictionary Act was passed "the phrase `bodies politic and corporate' was understood to include the States." Post, at 78.
We see no reason to adopt a different rule in the present context, particularly when such a rule would allow petitioner to circumvent congressional intent by a mere pleading device. To the extent JUSTICE BRENNAN's citation of other authorities does not suffer from the same confusion, those authorities at best suggest that the phrase is ambiguous, which still renders the Dictionary Act incapable of supplying the necessary clear intent.


The question presented is whether the word "person" in this statute includes the States and state officials acting in their official capacities.
For this case is not decided on the basis of our ordinary method of statutory construction; instead, the Court disposes of it by means of various rules of statutory interpretation that it summons to its aid each time the question looks close. When one considers the origins and content of this interpretive guideline, moreover, one realizes that it is inapplicable here and, even if applied, would defeat rather than support the Court's approach and result. Although the Court apparently wishes it were otherwise, the principle of interpretation that Atascadero announced is unique to cases involving the Eleventh Amendment. Jordan that 1983 does not abrogate States' Eleventh Amendment immunity tells us nothing about the meaning of the term "person" in 1983 as a matter of ordinary statutory construction.
Thus, we concluded, where nothing in the "context" of a particular statute "call[s] for a restricted interpretation of the word `person,' the language of that [statute] should prima facie be construed to include `bodies politic' among the entities that could be sued." Ibid. It had never occurred to me, however, that only "precise" definitions counted as valid ones. That is not the phrase chosen by Congress in the Dictionary Act, and the Court's suggestion that this phrase is coterminous with the phrase "bodies politic and corporate" begs the question whether the latter one includes the States. Congress chose to use the word "person" in the 1871 Act even after it had passed the Dictionary Act, presumptively including "bodies politic and corporate" within the category of "persons." Its decision to do so - and its failure to indicate in the 1871 Act that the Dictionary Act's presumption was not to apply - demonstrate that Congress did indeed intend "persons" to include bodies politic and corporate. The statute is explicitly directed at action taken "under color of" state law, and thus supports rather than refutes the idea that the "persons" mentioned in the statute include the States. The only way to remove the redundancy that the Court sees would have been to eliminate the catchall phrase "person" altogether, and separately describe each category of possible defendants and the circumstances under which they might be liable.
Indeed, virtually every time we construe the word "person" to include corporate or other artificial entities that are not individual, flesh-and-blood persons, some awkwardness results.
One need not believe that the statute satisfies this Court's heightened clear-statement principle, reserved for Eleventh Amendment cases, in order to conclude that the language and legislative history of 1983 show that the word "person" must include the States. Congress had taken control of the entire governmental process in former Confederate States. The States themselves were helpless, despite the resort by some of them to extreme measures such as making it legal to hunt down and shoot any disguised man.
It is difficult, therefore, to believe that this same Congress did not intend to include States among those who might be liable under 1983 for the very deprivations that were threatening this Nation at that time.
Even if, in other words, a State formally and explicitly consented to suits against it in federal or state court, no 1983 plaintiff could proceed against it because States are not within the statute's category of possible defendants.
In our prior decisions involving common-law immunities, we have not held that the existence of an immunity defense excluded the relevant state actor from the category of "persons" liable under 1983, see, e.
When suit is brought in state court, where the Eleventh Amendment is inapplicable, it follows that the State can be named directly as a party under 1983.
And that rate is so "absurdly low" that it's unconstitutional, the Florida Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
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However, the State Court of Appeals vacated the judgment against the Department, holding that a State is not a person under 1983, and remanded the case for a determination of the Director's possible immunity.
On the basis of that finding, the state-court judge, acting in both the Circuit Court and the Court of Claims cases, concluded that petitioner had established a violation of the United States Constitution. But the intent of Congress to provide a remedy for unconstitutional state action does not without more include the sovereign States among those persons against whom 1983 actions would lie. Rather, an examination of authorities of the era suggests that the phrase was used to mean corporations, both private and public (municipal), and not to include the States. As this passage suggests, however, this interpretive principle applies only to "the enacting sovereign." United States v. Since this case was brought in state court, however, this strict drafting requirement has no application here.
Bouvier, 1 A Law Dictionary Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America 185 (11th ed.
1979) ("[B]ody politic or corporate": "A social compact by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good").
Indeed, each and every dictionary cited by the Court accords a broader realm - one that comfortably, and in most cases explicitly, includes the sovereign - to this phrase than the Court gives it today. Where the question we face is what meaning Congress attached to a particular word or phrase, we usually - and properly - are loath to conclude that Congress meant to use the word or phrase in a hypertechnical sense unless it said so. Only two months after presumptively designating bodies politic and corporate as "persons," Congress chose the word "person" for 1 of the Civil Rights Act. I cannot think of a situation not involving the Eleventh Amendment, however, in which we have imposed such an unforgiving drafting requirement on Congress. But given cases like Monell and Wilson, it is difficult to understand why mere linguistic awkwardness should control where there is good reason to accept the "awkward" reading of a statute.
It had declared the governments in 10 `unreconstructed' States to be illegal and had set up federal military administrations in their place.
You've still got that summer associate position (or clerkship, or internship) to take up your summer days. So, to help you out, here are our top tips on how to be the best summer associate (or clerk or intern), from the FindLaw archives. The State Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, agreeing that the State is not a person under 1983, but holding that a state official acting in his or her official capacity also is not such a person.
Robinson, and Antonia Hernandez filed a brief for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law et al. Catalano, Deputy Attorney General, and by the Attorneys General for their respective jurisdictions as follows: Don Siegelman of Alabama, Robert K. The judge held that the Circuit Court action was barred under state law but that the Claims Court action could go forward. At the very least, reading the statute in this way is not so clearly indicated that it provides reason to depart from the often-expressed understanding that "`in common usage, the term `person' does not include the sovereign, [and] statutes employing the [word] are ordinarily construed to exclude it.'" Wilson v. Construing 1983 as a remedy for "official violation of federally protected rights" does no more than confirm that the section is directed against state action - action "under color of" state law. The Court apparently believes that each of these rules obviates the need for close analysis of a statute's language and history. The Eleventh Amendment can hardly be "a consideration," ante, at 67, in a suit to which it does not apply. Many of the authorities cited above predate both the Dictionary Act and the 1866 Act, indicating that the word "persons" in 1866 ordinarily would have been thought to include "bodies politic and corporate," with or without the Dictionary Act.
Congress refused to seat representatives from these States until they had adopted constitutions guaranteeing Negro suffrage, and had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment.
2d 749, 793-794 (1987) (Boyle, J., concurring), there is certainly a possibility that that court would hold that the State also lacks immunity against 1983 suits for violations of the Federal Constitution.
Corbin of Arizona, John Steven Clark of Arkansas, John Van de Kamp of California, Duane Woodard of Colorado, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Charles M. We cannot conclude that 1983 was intended to disregard the well-established immunity of a State from being sued without its consent. It does not suggest that the State itself was a person that Congress intended to be subject to liability.
Properly applied, however, only the last of these interpretative principles has this effect, and that principle is not pertinent to the case before us.
Abbott, Dictionary of Terms and Phrases Used in American or English Jurisprudence 155 (1879) ("[T]he term body politic is often used in a general way, as meaning the state or the sovereign power, or the city government, without implying any distinct express incorporation"); W. The suggestion, I take it, is that the phrase "bodies politic and corporate" refers only to nations rather than to the states within a nation; but then the Court must explain why so many of the sources I have quoted refer to states in addition to nations. I do not understand what purpose is served, what principle of federalism or comity is promoted, by refusing to give force to a State's explicit consent to suit.
In an opinion so utterly devoted to the rights of the States as sovereigns, moreover, it is surprising indeed to find the Court distinguishing between our sovereign States and our sovereign Nation. In February 1869 the Fifteenth Amendment was proposed, and it was ratified in February 1870.
The Supreme Court agreed that the State itself is not a person under 1983, but held that a state official acting in his or her official capacity also is not such a person.
229, 231 (1851) ("Every sovereign State is of necessity a body politic, or artificial person"); Poindexter v.



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