Bell v. Hood
327 U.S. 678 (1946)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678 (1946)

Bell v. Hood

No. 344

Argued January 29, 1946

Decided April 1, 1946

327 U.S. 678

Syllabus

1. Where the complaint seeks recovery squarely on the ground of violation of plaintiffs' rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, a federal district court has jurisdiction of a suit against agents of the Federal Government to recover damages in excess of $3,000 alleged to have been suffered by the plaintiffs as a result of such violations -- even though neither the Constitution nor the Congress has provided for the recovery of money damages for such violations and the complaint is so framed as possibly to state a common law action in tort or trespass. Pp. 327 U. S. 680-685.

2. Where a complaint in a federal court is so drawn as to seek recovery directly under the Constitution or laws of the United States, the court must entertain the suit, except: (a) where the alleged claim appears to be immaterial, and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction, or (b) where it is wholly insubstantial and frivolous. P. 327 U. S. 682.

3. Whether the complaint states a cause of action on which relief could be granted is a question of law which must be decided after, and not before, the court assumes jurisdiction. P. 327 U. S. 682.

4. The issue whether federal courts can grant money recovery for damages alleged to have been suffered as a result of federal agents' violating the Fourth and Fifth Amendments has sufficient merit to warrant exercise of federal jurisdiction for purposes of adjudicating it. P. 327 U. S. 684.

150 F. 2d 96, reversed.

Petitioners brought suit in a federal district court against agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to recover damages in excess of $3,000 alleged to have been sustained as a result of violations of their rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The District Court dismissed the suit for want of federal jurisdiction. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 150 F.2d 96. This Court granted certiorari. 326 U.S. 706. Reversed, p. 327 U. S. 685.

Page 327 U. S. 679

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