460 U.S. 719 (1983), 81-1675, Kush v. Rutledge

Docket Nº:No. 81-1675
Citation:460 U.S. 719, 103 S.Ct. 1483, 75 L.Ed.2d 413
Party Name:Kush v. Rutledge
Case Date:April 04, 1983
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 719

460 U.S. 719 (1983)

103 S.Ct. 1483, 75 L.Ed.2d 413

Kush

v.

Rutledge

No. 81-1675

United States Supreme Court

April 4, 1983

Argued January 12, 1983

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

In his action in Federal District Court, and in state administrative and judicial proceedings, respondent, a white male, asserted a variety of common law and statutory claims against Arizona State University and certain of its officials (including petitioners) arising out of incidents occurring while he was a member of the University's football squad. One of the claims was that three of the petitioners had engaged in a conspiracy to intimidate and threaten various potential material witnesses in order to prevent them from testifying "freely, fully and truthfully" in the action, in violation of the first part of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2) (1976 ed., Supp. V). The District Court dismissed the entire complaint. The Court of Appeals, while affirming the dismissal of certain of respondent's claims and remanding as to others, reversed with respect to the claim at issue. The court concluded that respondent's claims of witness intimidation, insofar as they related to obstruction of justice at the state level, were not actionable under the second part of § 1985(2) -- which prohibits a conspiracy to obstruct the due course of justice in a State "with intent to deny any citizen the equal protection of the laws" -- because there was no sufficient allegation of racial or class-based invidiously discriminatory animus. The court concluded, however, that such an allegation -- which was held to be necessary in Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, to avoid creating a general federal tort law with regard to a portion of § 1985(3) -- was not applicable to alleged intimidation of witnesses in the federal courts in violation of the first part of § 1985(2).

Held: No allegations of racial or class-based invidiously discriminatory animus are required to establish a cause of action under the first part of § 1985(2). The statutory provisions now codified at § 1985 were originally enacted as § 2 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, and the substantive meaning of the 1871 Act has not been changed. The provisions relating to institutions and processes of the Federal Government (including the first part of § 1985(2)) -- unlike those encompassing activity that is usually of primary state concern (including the second part of § 1985(2) and the part of § 1985(3) involved in Griffin, supra -- contain no language requiring that the conspirators act with intent to deprive their victims of the equal protection of the laws. Thus, the reasoning of Griffin is not applicable here, and, given the structure of § 2 of the 1871 Act, it is clear

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that Congress did not intend to impose a requirement of class-based animus on persons seeking to prove a violation of their rights under the first part of § 1985(2). The legislative history supports this conclusion. Pp. 724-727.

660 F.2d 1345, affirmed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

STEVENS, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent is a white football player of unknown political affiliation who seeks to recover damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2) (1976 ed., Supp. V) for an alleged conspiracy to intimidate potential witnesses in a federal lawsuit. Petitioners argue that the action must be dismissed because there is no claim that the conspiracy was motivated by the kind of "racial, or perhaps otherwise class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus" we held to be necessary in Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, 102 (1971). We reject their contention, because the critical [103 S.Ct. 1485] language in § 1985(3), the statute that applied to the Griffin conspiracy, does not apply to the violation of the first part of § 1985(2) alleged in this case.

I

The issue before us is narrow, and may be briefly stated. In both federal and state tribunals, respondent Rutledge has asserted a variety of common law and statutory claims against Arizona State University and its officials arising out of incidents that occurred while he was a member of the University's football squad. One of his claims is that three of the petitioners -- the Arizona State University athletic director, head football coach, and assistant football coach --

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engaged in a conspiracy to intimidate and threaten various potential material witnesses in order to prevent them from testifying "freely, fully and truthfully" in his lawsuit in federal court.1

The District Court granted a motion to dismiss the entire complaint on the grounds that the action was barred by the Eleventh Amendment and that respondent had failed to allege

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a violation of his civil rights. It concluded that respondent had failed to state a § 1985 claim because he had not shown that he was a member of an identifiable class, and because his general allegations of a conspiracy were unsupported by specific facts. App. to Pet. for Cert. A-2. The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of all claims against the University and its Board of Regents and of the vicarious liability claims against petitioner Miller, remanded for further proceedings on the other state law tort claims against petitioners, and affirmed the dismissal of all federal civil rights claims against petitioners except the one at issue here. Rutledge v. Arizona Bd. of Regents, 660 F.2d 1345 (CA9 1981).2

The Court of Appeals construed respondent's allegations of witness intimidation, see n. 1, supra, as containing two components -- obstruction of justice at the state level, and interference with federal litigation. The former [103 S.Ct. 1486] was not actionable under the second part of § 1985(2),3 the court held, because "there exists no sufficient allegation of racial or class-based invidiously discriminatory animus." 660 F.2d at 1355. The court acknowledged that this Court's decision in Griffin v. Breckenridge, supra, had interpreted a portion of § 1985(3) to include such a requirement in order to avoid the constitutional issues that would have attended enactment

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of a general federal tort law. It decided that the same principles applied to claims based on...

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