It is essential to keep the law representatives at the highest standard, as they serve as role models for society. The need to upkeep the image and the violent incidents that occurred in the 19th century made Congress specify the rights of citizens to sue government officials for breaching their constitutional rights (Ross 71). Through numerous interpretations in different court cases, unconstitutional actions by state and local officials are now fully punishable via civil lawsuits. This paper will review Section § 1983 of the Title 42 United States Code for its purpose, possible remedies, and how a proper lawsuit can be filed.
Purpose and Essential Elements
The purpose of this Section is to protect citizens from constitutional violations and prevent damage to the government’s reputation. § 1983 sends a message that one’s duty status must indicate a strong moral compass and knowledge of acceptable limits (Ross 71). It protects citizens and, in some states, illegal aliens from unlawful actions of people in governing positions. For example, police and detention officers, sheriffs, and public officials can be brought into a federal court via § 1983. The main elements are claims of abuse, remedies, and the definition of a suitable defendant. Local governments can be sued for the actions of their representatives, while the Eleventh Amendment protects state governments from becoming subject to persecution under this Section directly (Findlaw Staff). This protection is not limitless, as there are boundaries of what a person acting under the color of law is, and it must be extensively proven in court. It is important to know that state governments and federal officials are not reachable through § 1983 (Ross 74). Otherwise, plaintiffs who make a claim of abuse can seek remedies from a defendant to bring them to justice.
It is possible for a plaintiff to obtain a remedy from persons who violated their rights through § 1983. There are three possible remedies, including monetary and punitive damages, as well as injunctions (Ross 76). However, to obtain them, a plaintiff must prove that they were wronged shortly after the incident occurred. Monetary compensations can be sought by people who were, for example, subjected to excessive use of force by law enforcement, including payments for medical bills, emotional suffering, lost workdays, or psychiatrist visits (Ross 76). If an action that led to a lawsuit is an example of particularly unacceptable behavior, punitive damages can be sought. In such a case, additional compensation can be awarded to a plaintiff in hopes of deterring similar reckless events from happening in the future (Ross 76). In addition to fines, § 1983 allows people to seek prevention of further harm from persons who wronged them while on duty. Injunctions can be issued by courts to prevent further intrusion in a plaintiff’s life (Ross 77). For example, these decisions may come in the form of a restraining order prohibiting a defendant from approaching a plaintiff or their property, sometimes temporarily. In case of a breach of an injunction, a person who represents the law can be fined or incarcerated (Ross 77). Therefore, people are protected from further persecution and harassment from said figures.
Steps in a Civil Lawsuit
A claim brought to a court must be thoroughly thought through and adequately represented. An incident that led to a § 1983 lawsuit must have included a person acting under the color of law and must have occurred within three years (Ross 76). Involved parties must be clearly defined and their actions described to show the whole picture. It is essential that a defendant must have been acting under the rights given to them by the government in order to represent it, such as a police officer on duty (Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys). Therefore, it is crucial to consider that the job position of a wrongdoer alone does not guarantee a viable lawsuit under this Section. A defendant has to be in the line of work at the time of the event. For example, an off-duty officer who made an arrest is liable if their actions may lead to § 1983. However, if they merely had a violent confrontation without referring to their government-given rights, they can not be prosecuted under this Section.
The focus of the complaint is vital when filing a § 1983 lawsuit. § 1983 does not give any rights, but six Amendments can be considered violated, including the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth (Ross 75). The discovery of unconstitutional actions will be held in accordance with provided data. The line of authority must have been clearly overstepped by government officials, such as through physical violence, unlawful arrests, or discrimination, and this fact must be proven through evidence, interrogations, requests for production, and admission (Ross 82). After reviewing the discovered data and hearings, a court decision is made.
In conclusion, Section § 1983 allows citizens to address a court and seek monetary compensation or injunctions in order to deter government officials from breaching their constitutional rights. Depending on the provided data, a plaintiff can ensure that no similar incidents will happen to them by the same persons through severe punishments. This Section plays a critical role in upholding the reputation of the government, as it guarantees that no one is above the law.
Findlaw Staff. “Section 1983 and civil rights lawsuits.” Findlaw, Web.
Ross, D. L. Civil liability in criminal justice. 7th ed., Routledge, 2018.
Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys. “What is a section 1983 civil rights lawsuit?” Web.