Golden State Transit Corp v. City of Los Angeles, No. 88-840

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and O'CONNOR
Citation493 U.S. 103,107 L.Ed.2d 420,110 S.Ct. 444
PartiesGOLDEN STATE TRANSIT CORP., Petitioner, v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES
Decision Date05 December 1989
Docket NumberNo. 88-840

493 U.S. 103
110 S.Ct. 444
107 L.Ed.2d 420
GOLDEN STATE TRANSIT CORP., Petitioner,

v.

CITY OF LOS ANGELES.

No. 88-840.
Argued Oct. 3, 1989.
Decided Dec. 5, 1989.
Syllabus

After this Court held that respondent city had violated federal law by conditioning the renewal of petitioner's taxicab franchise on settlement of a pending labor dispute between petitioner and its union, Golden State Transit Corp. v. Los Angeles, 475 U.S. 608, 106 S.Ct. 1395, 89 L.Ed.2d 616 (Golden State I ), the District Court enjoined the city to reinstate the franchise. However, the court concluded that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 did not authorize a compensatory damages award, since the Supremacy Clause does not create individual rights that may be vindicated in an action for damages under § 1983; and since, even though the city's conduct was pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) under Golden State I, there had been no "direct violation" of the statute, and the Act's comprehensive enforcement scheme precluded resort to § 1983. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Petitioner is entitled to maintain a § 1983 action for compensatory damages. Pp. 105-113.

(a) The Supremacy Clause, of its own force, does not create rights enforceable under § 1983. The Clause "is not a source of any federal rights"; rather, it " 'secure[s]' federal rights by according them priority whenever they come in conflict with state law." Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization, 441 U.S. 600, 613, 99 S.Ct. 1905, 1913, 60 L.Ed.2d 508. Pp. 107-108.

(b) However, the NLRA grants petitioner rights enforceable under § 1983. A § 1983 remedy is not precluded by the existence of a comprehensive enforcement scheme, since the NLRA provides no mechanism to address state interference with federally protected labor rights. Moreover, the city's argument that its conduct did not violate any rights secured by the NLRA is rejected, since petitioner is the intended beneficiary of a statutory scheme that gives parties to a collective-bargaining agreement the right to make use of "economic weapons," not expressly set forth in the NLRA, free of federal or state governmental interference. Machinists v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Comm'n, 427 U.S. 132, 150, 96 S.Ct. 2548, 2558, 49 L.Ed.2d 396. The violation of a federal right that is implicit in a statute's language and structure is as much a "direct violation" of a right

Page 104

as is the violation that is clearly set forth in the text of the statute. Pp. 108-112.

857 F.2d 631 (CA9 1988); reversed and remanded.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 113.

Zachary D. Fasman, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

John F. Haggerty, Los Angeles, Cal., for respondent.

Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Golden State Transit Corp. v. Los Angeles, 475 U.S. 608, 106 S.Ct. 1395, 89 L.Ed.2d 616 (1986) (Golden State I ), we held that the respondent city had violated federal law by conditioning the renewal of petitioner's taxicab franchise on settlement of a pending labor dispute between petitioner and its union. On remand, the District Court enjoined the city to reinstate the franchise but concluded that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982 ed.) 1 did not authorize an award of compensatory damages. The court reasoned that "the supremacy clause does not create individual rights that may be vindicated in an action for damages under

Page 105

Section 1983," 660 F.Supp. 571, 578 (CD Cal.1987), and that even though the city's conduct was preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 49 Stat. 449, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. (1982 ed. and Supp. V), a § 1983 cause of action did not lie because there had been no "direct violation" of the statute and because the Act's comprehensive enforcement scheme precluded resort to § 1983.2 The Court of Appeals affirmed. 857 F.2d 631 (CA9 1988). We granted certiorari limited to the question whether the NLRA granted petitioner rights enforceable under § 1983. 489 U.S. 1010, 109 S.Ct. 1117, 103 L.Ed.2d 180 (1989).

I

Section 1983 provides a federal remedy for "the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws." As the language of the statute plainly indicates, the remedy encompasses violations of federal statutory as well as constitutional rights. We have repeatedly held that the coverage of the statute must be broadly construed. See, e.g., Felder v. Casey, 487 U.S. 131, 139, 108 S.Ct. 2302, 2307, 101 L.Ed.2d 123 (1988); Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1, 4, 100 S.Ct. 2502, 2504, 65 L.Ed.2d 555 (1980);

Page 106

cf. United States v. Price, 383 U.S. 787, 801, 86 S.Ct. 1152, 1160, 16 L.Ed.2d 267 (1966). It provides a remedy "against all forms of official violation of federally protected rights." Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 700-701, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2040-2041, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978).

A determination that § 1983 is available to remedy a statutory or constitutional violation involves a two-step inquiry. First, the plaintiff must assert the violation of a federal right. See Middlesex County Sewerage Authority v. National Sea Clammers Assn., 453 U.S. 1, 19, 101 S.Ct. 2615, 2625, 69 L.Ed.2d 435 (1981). Section 1983 speaks in terms of "rights, privileges, or immunities," not violations of federal law. In deciding whether a federal right has been violated, we have considered whether the provision in question creates obligations binding on the governmental unit or rather "does no more than express a congressional preference for certain kinds of treatment." Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1, 19, 101 S.Ct. 1531, 1541, 67 L.Ed.2d 694 (1981). The interest the plaintiff asserts must not be "too vague and amorphous" to be "beyond the competence of the judiciary to enforce." Wright v. Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority, 479 U.S. 418, 431-432, 107 S.Ct. 766, 775-776, 93 L.Ed.2d 781 (1987). We have also asked whether the provision in question was "intend[ed] to benefit" the putative plaintiff. Id., at 430, 107 S.Ct. at 774; see also id., at 433, 107 S.Ct. at 775 (O'CONNOR, J., dissenting) (citing Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66, 78, 95 S.Ct. 2080, 2088, 45 L.Ed.2d 26 (1975)).

Second, even when the plaintiff has asserted a federal right, the defendant may show that Congress "specifically foreclosed a remedy under § 1983," Smith v. Robinson, 468 U.S. 992, 1005, n. 9, 104 S.Ct. 3457, 3464, n. 9, 82 L.Ed.2d 746 (1984), by providing a "comprehensive enforcement mechanis[m] for protection of a federal right," id., at 1003, 104 S.Ct., at 3463; see also Middlesex County Sewerage Authority v. National Sea Clammers Assn., 453 U.S. 1, 101 S.Ct. 2615, 69 L.Ed.2d 435 (1981); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973). The availability of administrative mechanisms to protect the plaintiff's interests is not necessarily sufficient to demonstrate that Congress intended to foreclose a § 1983 remedy. See Wright, 479 U.S., at 425-428, 107 S.Ct., at 771-773; cf. Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 420, 90 S.Ct. 1207, 1221, 25 L.Ed.2d 442 (1970).

Page 107

Rather, the statutory framework must be such that "[a]llowing a plaintiff" to bring a § 1983 action "would be inconsistent with Congress' carefully tailored scheme." Smith, 468 U.S., at 1012, 104 S.Ct., at 3468. The burden to demonstrate that Congress has expressly withdrawn the remedy is on the defendant. See Wright, 479 U.S., at 423, 107 S.Ct., at 770; National Sea Clammers, 453 U.S., at 21, n. 31, 101 S.Ct., at 2626, n. 31. " 'We do not lightly conclude that Congress intended to preclude reliance on § 1983 as a remedy' for the deprivation of a federally secured right." Wright, 479 U.S., at 423-424, 107 S.Ct., at 770-771 (quoting Smith v. Robinson, 468 U.S. at 1012, 104 S.Ct. 3457, 3468, 82 L.Ed.2d 746).

Respondent argues that the Supremacy Clause,3 of its own force, does not create rights enforceable under § 1983. We agree. "[T]hat clause is not a source of any federal rights"; it " 'secure[s]' federal rights by according them priority whenever they come in conflict with state law." Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization, 441 U.S. 600, 613, 99 S.Ct. 1905, 1913, 60 L.Ed.2d 508 (1979); see also Swift & Co. v. Wickham, 382 U.S. 111, 86 S.Ct. 258, 15 L.Ed.2d 194 (1965).4 Given the variety of situations in which pre-

Page 108

emption claims may be asserted, in state court and in federal court, it would obviously be incorrect to assume that a federal right of action pursuant to § 1983 exists every time a federal rule of law pre-empts state regulatory authority. Conversely, the fact that a federal statute has preempted certain state action does not preclude the possibility that the same federal statute may create a federal right for which § 1983 provides a remedy.

In all cases, the availability of the § 1983 remedy turns on whether the statute, by its terms or as interpreted, creates obligations "sufficiently specific and definite" to be within "the competence of the judiciary to enforce," Wright, 479 U.S., at 432, 107 S.Ct., at 775, is intended to benefit the putative plaintiff, and is not foreclosed "by express provision or other specific evidence from the statute itself," id., at 423, 107 S.Ct., at 770.

II

The nub of the controversy between the parties is whether the NLRA creates "rights" in labor and management that are protected against governmental interference. The city does not argue, nor could it, that a § 1983 action is precluded by the existence of a comprehensive enforcement scheme. Although the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) has exclusive jurisdiction to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices by employers and unions, it has no authority to address conduct protected by the NLRA against...

To continue reading

Request your trial
680 practice notes
  • Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws
    • United States
    • Federal Register May 20, 2010
    • May 20, 2010
    ...as creating a ``free zone from which all regulation, `whether federal or State,' is excluded.'' Golden State Transit Corp. v. Los Angeles, 493 U.S. 103, 111 (1989), quoting Machinists, 427 U.S. at The Department disagrees with the contention that the Executive Order or this implementing reg......
  • Int'l Ass'n of Machinists Dist. Ten & Local Lodge 873 v. Allen, No. 17-1178
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 13, 2018
    ...economic tactics," and to be free from government fiat in finding solutions. Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles , 493 U.S. 103, 112–13, 110 S.Ct. 444, 107 L.Ed.2d 420 (1989) ( Golden State II ) (where Machinists applies, it extends a right enforceable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 )......
  • Stilwell v. City of Williams, No. 14-15540
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • August 5, 2016
    ...Livadas v. Bradshaw , 512 U.S. 107, 133–34, 114 S.Ct. 2068, 129 L.Ed.2d 93 (1994) and Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles , 493 U.S. 103, 108–09, 110 S.Ct. 444, 107 L.Ed.2d 420 (1989), among other cases).5 Because the Telecommunications Act created a private right of action—an......
  • Lattisaw v. Dist. of Columbia, Civil Action No. 13–cv–0762 (KBJ)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • July 28, 2015
    ...160Baker v. District of Columbia, 326 F.3d 1302, 1306 (D.C.Cir.2003) ; see also Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles, 493 U.S. 103, 106, 110 S.Ct. 444, 107 L.Ed.2d 420 (1989) (explaining that "[a] determination that § 1983 is available to remedy a statutory or constitutional vi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
680 cases
  • Int'l Ass'n of Machinists Dist. Ten & Local Lodge 873 v. Allen, No. 17-1178
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 13, 2018
    ...economic tactics," and to be free from government fiat in finding solutions. Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles , 493 U.S. 103, 112–13, 110 S.Ct. 444, 107 L.Ed.2d 420 (1989) ( Golden State II ) (where Machinists applies, it extends a right enforceable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 )......
  • Stilwell v. City of Williams, No. 14-15540
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • August 5, 2016
    ...Livadas v. Bradshaw , 512 U.S. 107, 133–34, 114 S.Ct. 2068, 129 L.Ed.2d 93 (1994) and Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles , 493 U.S. 103, 108–09, 110 S.Ct. 444, 107 L.Ed.2d 420 (1989), among other cases).5 Because the Telecommunications Act created a private right of action—an......
  • Lattisaw v. Dist. of Columbia, Civil Action No. 13–cv–0762 (KBJ)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • July 28, 2015
    ...160Baker v. District of Columbia, 326 F.3d 1302, 1306 (D.C.Cir.2003) ; see also Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles, 493 U.S. 103, 106, 110 S.Ct. 444, 107 L.Ed.2d 420 (1989) (explaining that "[a] determination that § 1983 is available to remedy a statutory or constitutional vi......
  • Knussman v. State of Md., Civil No. B-95-1255.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • August 2, 1996
    ...the Supreme Court has held repeatedly that the reach of § 1983 should be broadly construed, Golden State Transit v. City of Los Angeles, 493 U.S. 103, 105, 110 S.Ct. 444, 447-48, 107 L.Ed.2d 420 (1989), the Court has recognized two exceptions to the application of § 1983 to statutory violat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • STANDING, EQUITY, AND INJURY IN FACT.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 97 Nbr. 5, May 2022
    • May 1, 2022
    ...of any federal rights,'"... and certainly does not create a cause of action.") (quoting Colden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles, 493 U.S. 103, 107 (109) Id. at 326-27. (110) See id. at 33.3 (Breyer.J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment) ("Like all other Members of ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT