411 U.S. 693 (1973), 72-10, Moor v. County of Alameda

Docket Nº:No. 72-10
Citation:411 U.S. 693, 93 S.Ct. 1785, 36 L.Ed.2d 596
Party Name:Moor v. County of Alameda
Case Date:May 14, 1973
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 693

411 U.S. 693 (1973)

93 S.Ct. 1785, 36 L.Ed.2d 596

Moor

v.

County of Alameda

No. 72-10

United States Supreme Court

May 14, 1973

Argued February 27, 1973

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioners Moor and Rundle brought damages actions in the District Court against respondents, several law enforcement officers and Alameda County. Against the County they alleged federal causes of action under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, and pendent state claims under the state tort claims statute, the federal, as well as the state, causes of action being grounded on the theory that the County was vicariously liable under state law for the officers' acts. Both petitioners alleged federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343 and Moor, additionally, on diversity grounds. The County moved to dismiss in each case, contending that, as to the Civil Rights Act claims, it was not a suable "person" under Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167; that, absent a claim against it as to which there exists an independent basis of federal jurisdiction, application of the pendent jurisdiction doctrine with respect to the state law claims would be inappropriate; and that, in Moor's suit, it was not a "citizen" for federal diversity purposes. The District Court granted the motions to dismiss, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held:

1. Section 1988, as is clear from its legislative history, does not independently create a federal cause of action for the violation of federal civil rights, and to apply that provision here by imposing vicarious liability upon the County would contravene the holding in Monroe v. Pape, supra, and Congress' intent to exclude a State's political subdivision from civil liability under § 1983. Pp. 698-710.

2. Even assuming, arguendo, that the District Court had judicial power to exercise pendent jurisdiction over petitioners' state law claims which would require that the County be brought in as a new party defendant, against which petitioners could not state a federally cognizable claim, in addition to the individual defendants against whom they could [93 S.Ct. 1788] assert such a claim, the court did not abuse its discretion in not exercising that power in view of unsettled questions of state law that it would have been called upon to resolve and the likelihood of jury confusion resulting from

Page 694

the special defenses to a county available under the state tort claims law. Pp. 710-717.

3. The District Court erred in rejecting petitioner Moor's state law claim against the County, which, under California law, has an independent status, on the basis of diversity of citizenship, since diversity jurisdiction extends to a State's political subdivision that is not simply the arm or alter ego of the State, Cowles v. Mercer County, 7 Wall. 118. Pp. 717-722.

458 F.2d 1217, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 722.

MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case raises three distinct questions concerning the scope of federal jurisdiction. We are called upon to decide whether a federal cause of action lies against a municipality under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 for the actions of its officers which violate an individual's federal civil rights where the municipality is subject to such liability under state law. In addition, we must decide whether, in a federal civil rights suit brought against a municipality's police officers, a federal court may refuse to exercise pendent jurisdiction over a state law claim against the municipality based on a theory of vicarious liability, and whether a county of the State of California is a citizen of the State for purposes of federal diversity jurisdiction.

Page 695

In February, 1970, petitioners Moor and Rundle1 filed separate actions in the District Court for the Northern District of California seeking to recover actual and punitive damages for injuries allegedly suffered by them as a result of the wrongful discharge of a shotgun by an Alameda County, California, deputy sheriff engaged in quelling a civil disturbance.2 In their complaints, petitioners named the deputy sheriff, plus three other deputies, the sheriff, and the County of Alameda as defendants. The complaints alleged both federal and state causes of action.

The federal causes of action against the individual defendants were based on allegations of conspiracy and intent to deprive petitioners of their constitutional rights of free speech and assembly, and to be secure from the deprivation of life and liberty without due process of law. These federal causes of action against the individual defendants were alleged to arise under, inter alia, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, and jurisdiction was asserted to exist under 28 U.S.C. § 1343.

Page 696

As to the County, both the federal and state law claims were predicated on the [93 S.Ct. 1789] contention that, under the California Tort Claims Act of 1963, Cal.Govt.Code § 815.2(a), the County was vicariously liable for the acts of its deputies and sheriff committed in violation of the Federal Civil Rights Act.3 The federal causes of action against the County were based on 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988,4 and thus jurisdiction was also alleged to exist with respect to these claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1343. Both petitioners argued before the District Court that it had authority to hear their state law claims against the County under the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction. In addition, petitioner Moor who alleged that he was a citizen of Illinois, asserted in his complaint that the District Court also had jurisdiction over his state law claim against the County on the basis of diversity of citizenship.5

Initially, the defendants answered both complaints denying liability, although the County admitted that it had consented to be sued.6 Thereafter, the County, arguing lack of jurisdiction, moved to dismiss all of the claims against it in the Rundle suit and to dismiss the federal civil rights claims in the Moor suit. The County relied upon this Court's decision in Monroe v. Pape, 365

Page 697

U.S. 167, 187-191 (1961), as having resolved that a municipality is not a "person" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and, on this basis alone, it considered the civil rights claims against it to be barred. Moreover, in Rundle, the County argued that, since there was before the District Court no claim against the County as to which there existed an independent basis of federal jurisdiction, it would be inappropriate to exercise pendent jurisdiction over the state law claim against it.

The District Court agreed with the County's arguments and granted the motion to dismiss the Rundle suit. It, however, postponed ruling in the Moor case pending consideration of possible diversity jurisdiction over the state law claim against the County in that case. Subsequently, the County sought to have the state law claim in Moor dismissed on the basis that it was not a citizen of California for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. While this motion was pending, a motion for reconsideration of the order dismissing the County was filed in the Rundle case. Following argument with respect to the jurisdictional issues, the District Court entered an order in Moor holding that there was no diversity jurisdiction and incorporating by reference an order filed in the Rundle case which again rejected petitioners' civil rights and pendent jurisdiction arguments. Upon the request of the petitioners, the District Court, finding "no just reason for delay," entered a final judgment in both suits with respect to the County under Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 54(b), thereby allowing immediate appeal of its jurisdictional decisions.7

Page 698

The two cases were then consolidated for purposes of appeal, and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court with respect to all [93 S.Ct. 1790] three issues raised by the two cases, 458 F.2d 1217 (1972). In addition to rejecting petitioners' arguments concerning the existence of pendent jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction over the state law claims, the Court of Appeals disagreed in particular with petitioners' contention that § 1988 alone established a federal cause of action against the County for their injuries on the basis of California law which created vicarious liability against the County for the actions of its officers that violated petitioners' federal civil rights. Because of the importance of the questions decided by the Court of Appeals, we granted certiorari. 409 U.S. 841 (1972). For reasons stated below, we now affirm that portion of the Court of Appeals' decision which held that petitioners had failed to establish a cause of action against the County under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, and that the trial court properly refused to exercise pendent jurisdiction over the state law claims. We reverse, however, its holding that the County is not a citizen of California for purposes of federal diversity jurisdiction.

I

We consider first petitioners' argument concerning the existence of a federal cause of action against the County under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Petitioners' thesis is, in essence, that. under California law. the County has been made vicariously liable for the conduct of its sheriff and deputy sheriffs which violates the Federal Civil Rights Acts8 and that, in the context of this case, § 1988 authorizes the adoption of such state law into federal law in order to render the Civil Rights Acts fully effective,

Page 699

...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP