Hoffman v. Halden

Decision Date28 May 1959
Docket NumberNo. 15782.,15782.
PartiesAdolph G. HOFFMAN, Appellant, v. C. H. HALDEN, Dr. Donald E. Wair, Dr. G. F. Keller and Dr. F. Sydney Hansen, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit





Alexander, Buehner & Tilbury, Roger Tilbury, Portland, Or., for appellant.

Hart, Spencer, McCulloch, Rockwood & Davies, Cleveland C. Cory, Portland, Or., for appellee Keller.

Robert Y. Thornton, Atty. Gen., Peter S. Herman, Asst. Atty. Gen., State of Oregon, Salem, Or., for appellee Wair.

F. Leo Smith, Dist. Atty., Willis A. West, Chief Civil Deputy, County of Multnomah, Portland, Or., for appellees Halden & Hansen.

Before STEPHENS, Chief Judge, CHAMBERS, Circuit Judge, and JAMES M. CARTER, District Judge.

JAMES M. CARTER, District Judge.

This appeal, in an action for violation of civil rights, presents three major questions:

(1) The sufficiency of the second amended complaint to state a cause of action;

(2) The right to immunity, if any, possessed by state executive officers, and

(3) The impact of the statute of limitations upon the alleged cause.

The defendants below, here appellees, moved to dismiss the second amended complaint of Hoffman on the grounds of, (1) failure to state a claim for relief, and (2) that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations of Oregon.1

The trial court entered a judgment of dismissal based on the first ground, failure to state a claim for relief. This appeal followed within the time allowed.

The second amended complaint is set forth in the margin.2 The case apparently grows out of the fact that Hoffman was taken into custody on January 10, 1952 as a mentally ill person and again taken into custody on August 5, 1952 and incarcerated until October 23, 1952, at the Oregon State Hospital for the mentally ill. There is reference to detention in Morningside Hospital but no other information about this hospital is pleaded.


The District Court has jurisdiction of the Cause.

We inquire first as to the jurisdiction of the district court over the subject matter of the cause. The second amended complaint bases jurisdiction on Title 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 1331 and 1343. It alleges the action arises under the U. S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 8; Art. IV, Sec. 4, and amendments XIII and XIV; Title 18 U.S.C.A. §§ 231,3 241, 242; and Title 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1981-1988.

Title 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1981-1988 contains the Civil Rights Statutes which may be the basis of a civil cause of action. Title 18 U.S.C.A. §§ 241 and 242 are criminal sections pertaining to civil rights and provide only criminal sanctions. They are only of passing interest.

Title 28 U.S.C.A. § 1343 expressly grants jurisdiction to the district court in civil actions for violation of civil rights. § 1331 grants jurisdiction if the cause arises under the Constitution or laws of the United States and the prayer exceeds $3,000.

There is considerable doubt and confusion in the application of the Civil Rights Statutes throughout the circuits. A panel of this court in Agnew v. City of Compton, 9 Cir., 1956, 239 F.2d 226, has painstakingly and ably analyzed various of the sections. To the extent that case is applicable, we therefore follow it.

We hold that the district court had jurisdiction of the cause, Agnew v. City of Compton, supra. This court has jurisdiction of the appeal.


The Second Amended Complaint states a cause of action.

In considering the question as to whether the second amended complaint states a cause of action, we do so without reference to the application of the statute of limitations or the problem of immunity of state executive officers. We hereafter consider these problems.

The second amended complaint purports to allege a conspiracy based on § 1985, subdivisions (2) and (3), Title 42 U.S.C.A., and also on § 1983 of the same title.4

After reviewing scores of cases, we are of the view that the effect and scope of the Civil Rights Statutes must be gauged by the reported cases after about 1939. In considering this problem we particularly rely on Agnew v. City of Compton, supra, and the decisions of the Supreme Court, though few in number, which have considered the Civil Rights Statutes since that date.

Hague v. C.I.O., 1939, 307 U.S. 496, 59 S.Ct. 954, 83 L.Ed. 1423, was an important case in giving life and content to the Civil Rights Act. An injunction under § 43, old Title 8 U.S.C.A. (now § 1983, Title 42, U.S.C.A.) was sustained against municipal officials who interfered with union meetings. Justice Stone concurring stated (307 U.S. at page 526, 59 S.Ct. at page 469):

"It will be observed that the cause of action, given by the section in its original as well as its final form, extends broadly to deprivation by state action of the rights, privileges and immunities secured to persons by the Constitution. It thus includes the Fourteenth Amendment and such privileges and immunities as are secured by the due process and equal protection clauses, as well as by the privileges and immunities clause of that Amendment * *".

United States v. Classic, 1941, 313 U. S. 299, at page 326, 61 S.Ct. 1031, at page 1043, 85 L.Ed. 1368, defined "color of state law." "Misuse of power, possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law, is action taken `under color of' state law."5

In Snowden v. Hughes, 1943, 321 U. S. 1, 64 S.Ct. 397, 88 L.Ed. 497, the court had before it an action for damages under old Title 8 U.S.Code, §§ 41, 43 and 47(3) (now §§ 1981, 1983 and 1985(3), Title 42 U.S.Code Annotated). The court said at page 7 of 321 U.S., at page 400, of 64 S.Ct., "There is no allegation of any facts tending to show that in refusing to certify petitioner as a nominee, the Board was making any intentional or purposeful discrimination between persons or classes * * *". And at page 8 of 321 U.S., at page 401 of 64 S.Ct., "The unlawful administration by state officers of a state statute fair on its face, resulting in its unequal application to those who are entitled to be treated alike, is not a denial of equal protection unless there is shown to be present in it an element of intentional or purposeful discrimination * * *". Emphasis supplied.

The teaching of the case is therefore that it must be alleged and proved that the purpose of the acts complained of was to discriminate between persons or classes of persons.6 Agnew v. City of Compton, supra, so states, 239 F.2d at page 231. Note in Cobb v. City of Malden, 1 Cir., 1953, 202 F.2d 701, 707, Chief Judge Magruder's concurring opinion stating the need for "this crucial state of mind on the part of the defendants," to-wit, a realization "that they were subjecting plaintiffs to harm by an unconstitutional impairment of the obligation of their contracts with the City." (at page 707).

It is interesting in this respect to compare Screws v. United States, 1945, 325 U.S. 91, 65 S.Ct. 1031, 89 L.Ed. 1495, a criminal case, where there was charged a violation of the then existing Title 18 U.S.Code, § 52, (now 18 U.S.C.A. § 242) and a conspiracy to violate the section under the general conspiracy section. The court pointed out that the Congress in 1909 had added the word "willfully" but that to constitute the offense, more than what would be the ordinary requirement of proof of specific intent was required. The court said at page 107 of 325 U.S., at page 1038 of 65 S.Ct.: "But in view of our construction of the word `willfully' the jury should have been further instructed that it was not sufficient that petitioners had a generally bad purpose. To convict it was necessary for them to find that petitioners had the purpose to deprive the prisoner of a constitutional right, e. g. the right to be tried by a court rather than by ordeal. * * *".

Thus, in two cases, one involving the criminal statute and one involving the civil statute, the court reached similar results which we can equate, namely that a specific intent to violate one's constitutional rights was required under the criminal statutes and conduct which was "purposefully discriminating," as to such rights was required under the civil statute.7

Passing to Collins v. Hardyman, 1951, 341 U.S. 651, 71 S.Ct. 937, 95 L.Ed. 1253, a civil action under old Title 8 U.S.Code, § 47(3) (now § 1985(3) Title 42 U.S. C.A.) no officers of the State were made defendants and although the action did not purport to rely upon old Title 8, § 43, present § 1983, Title 42 U.S.C.A. which expressly required action under color of State authority, nevertheless the court in substance read the same requirement into § 47(3) (now § 1985(3) Title 42 U.S.C.A.). The court said at page 661 of 341 U.S., at page 941 of 71 S.Ct., "* * * it is clear that this statute does not attempt to reach a conspiracy to deprive one of rights, unless it is a deprivation of equality, of `equal protection of the law,' or of `equal privileges and immunities under the law.'". The court points out that the acts complained of were private acts, without even an attempt to influence or interfere with the law. "Such private discrimination is not inequality before the law unless there is some manipulation of the law or its agencies to give sanction or sanctuary for doing so." The rights of plaintiffs "under the laws and to protection of the laws, remained untouched * * *". (341 U.S. at page 661, 71 S.Ct. at page 942). Emphasis in opinion.

We think it is now clear that an action under any of the Civil Rights statutes must allege acts done under color of state law,8 even though § 1985, Title 42 U.S.C.A. does not expressly contain this requirement. It should be noted that § 1985, Title 42 U.S.C.A. sets forth various civil conspiracies with only two of which we are here concerned. Subd. (2) defines the conspiracy to impede justice with intent to deny a citizen the equal protection of the...

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