507 U.S. 163 (1993), 91-1657, Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics

Docket Nº:No. 91-1657
Citation:507 U.S. 163, 113 S.Ct. 1160, 122 L.Ed.2d 517, 61 U.S.L.W. 4205
Party Name:Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics
Case Date:March 03, 1993
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 163

507 U.S. 163 (1993)

113 S.Ct. 1160, 122 L.Ed.2d 517, 61 U.S.L.W. 4205

Leatherman

v.

Tarrant County Narcotics

No. 91-1657

United States Supreme Court

March 3, 1993

Intelligence and Coordination Unit

Argued Jan. 12, 1993

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner homeowners filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against respondents -- local officials acting in their official capacity, a county, and two municipal corporations -- alleging that the conduct of local police officers in searching their homes for narcotics violated the Fourth Amendment, and asserting that the basis for municipal liability was the failure adequately to train the police officers involved. The Federal District Court dismissed the complaints because they failed to meet the "heightened pleading standard" adopted by the Court of Appeals, which requires that complaints against municipal corporations in § 1983 cases state with factual detail and particularity the basis for the claim. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

[113 S.Ct. 1161] Held: A federal court may not apply a "heightened pleading standard" -- more stringent than the usual pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) -- in civil rights cases alleging municipal liability under § 1983. First, the heightened standard cannot be justified on the ground that a more relaxed pleading standard would eviscerate municipalities' immunity from suit by subjecting them to expensive and time-consuming discovery in every § 1983 case. Municipalities, although free from respondeat superior liability under § 1983, see Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, do not enjoy absolute or qualified immunity from § 1983 suits, id. at 701; Owen v. City of Independence, 445 U.S. 622, 650. Second, it is not possible to square the heightened standard applied in this case with the liberal system of "notice pleading" set up by the Federal Rules. Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint include only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." And while Rule 9(b) requires greater particularity in pleading certain actions, it does not include among the enumerated actions any reference to complaints alleging municipal liability under § 1983. Pp. 165-169.

954 F.2d 1054 (CA5 1992), reversed and remanded.

Page 164

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari to decide whether a federal court may apply a "heightened pleading standard" -- more stringent than the usual pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure -- in civil rights cases alleging municipal liability under Rev.Stat. § 1979, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. We hold it may not.

We review here a decision...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP