633 P.2d 1381 (Alaska 1981), 5834, State v. Green

Docket Nº:5834.
Citation:633 P.2d 1381
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:STATE of Alaska and Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Petitioners, v. Mattie GREEN, Respondent.
Attorney:William B. Mellow and John B. Gaguine, Asst. Attys. Gen., and Wilson L. Condon, Atty. Gen., Juneau, for petitioners. Ronald T. West, Anchorage, for respondent.
Judge Panel:Before RABINOWITZ, C. J., and CONNOR, BURKE, MATTHEWS and COMPTON, JJ. RABINOWITZ, C. J., dissents. RABINOWITZ, Chief Justice, dissenting.
Case Date:October 02, 1981
Court:Supreme Court of Alaska
 
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Page 1381

633 P.2d 1381 (Alaska 1981)

STATE of Alaska and Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Petitioners,

v.

Mattie GREEN, Respondent.

No. 5834.

Supreme Court of Alaska

October 2, 1981

William B. Mellow and John B. Gaguine, Asst. Attys. Gen., and Wilson L. Condon, Atty. Gen., Juneau, for petitioners.

Ronald T. West, Anchorage, for respondent.

Before RABINOWITZ, C. J., and CONNOR, BURKE, MATTHEWS and COMPTON, JJ.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

On May 21, 1981, this court entered an order granting the state's petition for review and summarily reversing the superior court's order reinstating Green's claim for relief under 42 U.S. C. § 1983 (1970). In this opinion we set forth the reasons for our order.

Green filed suit against the state and the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (A.P.I.), alleging violations of 42 U.S. C. § 1983 (1970) 1 and of her constitutional rights. The state and A.P.I. moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that neither were a "person" within the meaning of section 1983. The motion was granted. Upon Green's motion for reconsideration, however, the dismissal was set aside and the complaint was reinstated. The state and A.P.I. then sought reconsideration of that order, which was denied. This petition for review followed. We granted the petition only as to the issue of whether the superior court erred in reinstating Green's section 1983 claim for relief. We concluded that the United States Supreme Court opinion in Quern v. Jordan,

Page 1382

440 U.S. 332, 99 S.Ct. 1139, 59 L.Ed.2d 358 (1979), mandates the dismissal of Green's claim for relief under section 1983.

We interpret Quern v. Jordan as holding not only that section 1983 does not abrogate the state's eleventh amendment immunity, but as holding that states are not "persons" within the meaning of the section. The only other state appellate court to consider this issue thus far has reached the same conclusion. In Edgar v. State, 92 Wash.2d 217, 595 P.2d 534 (1979) (en banc), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1077, 100 S.Ct. 1026, 62 L.Ed.2d 760 (1980), the Washington Supreme Court analyzed the issue as follows:

With respect to section 1983, the Superior Court's conclusion was in accord with the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Quern v. Jordan, (440) U.S. (332), 99 S.Ct. 1139, 59 L.Ed.2d 358 (1979). It was there held that the Congress of 1871, in adopting a provision which is now section 1983, did not intend to subject the states to liability under the act, since such liability would have deprived them of the immunity from suits in federal courts which is provided in the eleventh amendment to the United States Constitution. The plaintiff argues that Congress may nevertheless have intended to permit such suits in state courts. However, he points to no language of the act which would justify such an interpretation ....

The question before the Court in Quern, as Justice Brennan's dissent quite clearly points out, was whether the word "person" as used in this statute included states. It is the inescapable holding of the court that it did not. That holding affirmed the earlier case of Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974), and removed any doubt cast upon the question in Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), wherein the court had found, reversing prior holdings, that the Congress did not intend to exclude the municipal corporations from the coverage of the act.

595 P.2d at 537. We find this analysis persuasive. If Green's arguments were accepted, it would be necessary to assume that Congress intended the word "person" in section 1983 to include states for the purpose of suits in state courts but not for the purpose of overriding the...

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