365 U.S. 167 (1961), 39, Monroe v. Pape

Docket Nº:No. 39
Citation:365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492
Party Name:Monroe v. Pape
Case Date:February 20, 1961
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 167

365 U.S. 167 (1961)

81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492

Monroe

v.

Pape

No. 39

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 20, 1961

Argued November 8, 1960

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Under R.S. § 1979, derived from § 1 of the "Ku Klux Act" of April 20, 1871, petitioners (six Negro children and their parents) brought an action in a Federal District Court against the City of Chicago and 13 of its police officers for damages for violation of their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. They alleged that, acting "under color of the statutes, ordinances, regulations, customs and usages" of Illinois and the City of Chicago, but without any warrant for search or arrest, the police officers broke into petitioners' home in the early morning, routed them from bed, made them stand naked in the living room, and ransacked every room, emptying drawers and ripping mattress covers; that the father was taken to the police station and detained on "open" charges for ten hours while he was interrogated about a two-day-old murder; that he was not taken before a magistrate, though one was accessible; that he was not permitted to call his family or attorney, and that he was subsequently released without criminal charges being preferred against him.

Held: The complaint stated a cause of action against the police officers under § 1979; but the City of Chicago was not liable under that section. Pp. 168-192.

1. Allegation of facts constituting a deprivation under color of state authority of the guaranty against unreasonable searches and seizures, contained in the Fourth Amendment and made applicable to the States by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, satisfies to that extent the requirement of § 1979. Pp. 170-171.

2. In enacting § 1979, Congress intended to give a remedy to parties deprived of constitutional rights, privileges and immunities by an official's abuse of his position. Pp. 171-187.

(a) The statutory words "under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory" do not exclude acts of an official or policeman who can show no authority under state law, custom or usage to do what he did, or even who violated the state constitution and laws. Pp. 172-187.

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(b) One of the purposes of this legislation was to afford a federal right in federal courts because, by reason of prejudice, passion, neglect, intolerance, or otherwise, state laws might not be enforced and the claims of citizens to the enjoyment of rights, privileges and immunities guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment might be denied by state agencies. Pp. 174-180.

(c) The federal remedy is supplementary to the state remedy, and the state remedy need not be sought and refused before the federal remedy is invoked. P. 183.

(d) Misuse of power possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law is action taken "under color of" state law within the meaning of § 1979. United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299; Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91. Pp. 183-187.

3. Since § 1979 does not contain the word "willfully," as does 18 U.S.C. § 242, and § 1979 imposes civil liability, rather than criminal sanctions, actions under § 1979 can dispense with the requirement of showing a "specific intent to deprive a person of a federal right."

P. 187.

4. The City of Chicago is not liable under § 1979, because Congress did not intend to bring municipal corporations within the ambit of that section. Pp. 187-192.

272 F.2d 365, reversed.

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents important questions concerning the construction of R.S. § 1979, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which reads as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any

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citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

The complaint alleges that 13 Chicago police officers broke into petitioners' home in the early morning, routed them from bed, made them stand naked in the living room, and ransacked every room, emptying drawers and ripping mattress covers. It further alleges that Mr. Monroe was then taken to the police station and detained on "open" charges for 10 hours, while he was interrogated about a two-day-old murder, that he was not taken before a magistrate, though one was accessible, that he was not permitted to call his family or attorney, that he was subsequently released without criminal charges being preferred against him. It is alleged that the officers had no search warrant and no arrest warrant, and that they acted "under color of the statutes, ordinances, regulations, customs and usages" of Illinois and of the City of Chicago. Federal jurisdiction was asserted under R.S. § 1979, which we have set out above, and 28 U.S.C. § 13431 and 28 U.S.C. § 1331.2

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The City of Chicago moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it is not liable under the Civil Rights Acts nor for acts committed in performance of its governmental functions. All defendants moved to dismiss, alleging that the complaint alleged no cause of action under those Acts or under the Federal Constitution. The District Court dismissed the complaint. The Court of Appeals affirmed, 272 F.2d 365, relying on its earlier decision, Stift v. Lynch, 267 F.2d 237. The case is here on a writ of certiorari which we granted because of a seeming conflict of that ruling with our prior cases. 362 U.S. 926.

I

Petitioners claim that the invasion of their home and the subsequent search without a warrant and the arrest and detention of Mr. Monroe without a warrant and without arraignment constituted a deprivation of their "rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution" within the meaning of R.S. § 1979. It has been said that, when 18 U.S.C. § 241 made criminal a conspiracy "to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution," it embraced only rights that an individual has by reason of his relation to the central government, not to state governments. United States v. Williams, 341 U.S. 70. Cf. United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542; Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651; Guinn v. United States, 238 U.S. 347. But the history of the section of the Civil Rights Act presently involved does not permit such a narrow interpretation.

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Section 1979 came onto the books as § 1 of the Ku Klux Act of April 20, 1871. 17 Stat. 13. It was one of the means whereby Congress exercised the power vested in it by § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to enforce the provisions of that Amendment.3 Senator Edmunds, Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, said concerning this section:

The first section is one that I believe nobody objects to, as defining the rights secured by the Constitution of the United States when they are assailed by any State law or under color of any State law, and it is merely carrying out the principles of the civil rights bill,4 which has since become a part of the Constitution,5

viz., the Fourteenth Amendment.

[81 S.Ct. 476] Its purpose is plain from the title of the legislation, "An Act to enforce the Provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other Purposes." 17 Stat. 13. Allegation of facts constituting a deprivation under color of state authority of a right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment satisfies to that extent the requirement of R.S. § 1979. See Douglas v. Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157, 161-162. So far, petitioners are on solid ground. For the guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures contained in the Fourth Amendment has been made applicable to the States by reason of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Wolf v. Colorado, 338 U.S. 25; Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 213.

II

There can be no doubt, at least since Ex Parte Virginia, 100 U.S. 339, 346-347, that Congress has the power to

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enforce provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment against those who carry a badge of authority of a State and represent it in some capacity, whether they act in accordance with their authority or misuse it. See Home Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Los Angeles, 227 U.S. 278, 287-296. The question with which we now deal is the narrower one of whether Congress, in enacting § 1979, meant to give a remedy to parties deprived of constitutional rights, privileges and immunities by an official's abuse of his position. Cf. Williams v. United States, 341 U.S. 97; Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91; United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299. We conclude that it did so intend.

It is argued that "under color of" enumerated state authority excludes acts of an official or policeman who can show no authority under state law, state custom, or state usage to do what he did. In this case, it is said that these policemen, in breaking into petitioners' apartment, violated the Constitution6 and laws of Illinois. It is pointed out that, under Illinois law, a simple remedy is offered for that violation, and that, so far as it appears, the courts of Illinois are available to give petitioners that full redress which the common law affords for violence done to a person, and it is earnestly argued that no "statute, ordinance, regulation,...

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