Monell v. Department of Soc. Svcs.Annotate this Case
436 U.S. 658 (1978)
U.S. Supreme Court
Monell v. Department of Soc. Svcs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978)
Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York
Argued November 2, 1977
Decided June 6, 1978
436 U.S. 658
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
Petitioners, female employees of the Department of Social Services and the Board of Education of the city of New York, brought this class action against the Department and its Commissioner, the Board and its Chancellor, and the city of New York and its Mayor under 42 U.S.C. § 19&3, which provides that every "person" who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State subjects, or "causes to be subjected," any person to the deprivation of any federally protected rights, privileges, or immunities shall be civilly liable to the injured party. In each case, the individual defendants were sued solely in their official capacities. The gravamen of the complaint was that the Board and the Department had, as a matter of official policy, compelled pregnant employees to take unpaid leaves of absence before such leaves were required for medical reasons. The District Court found that petitioners' constitutional rights had been violated, but held that petitioners' claims for injunctive relief were mooted by a supervening change in the official maternity leave policy. That court further held that Monroe v. Pape,365 U. S. 167, barred recovery of backpay from the Department, the Board, and the city. In addition, to avoid circumvention of the immunity conferred by Monroe, the District Court held that natural persons sued in their official capacities as officers of a local government also enjoy the immunity conferred on local governments by that decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed on a similar theory.
1. In Monroe v. Pape, supra, after examining the legislative history of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, now codified as 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and particularly the rejection of the so-called Sherman amendment, the Court held that Congress, in 1871, doubted its constitutional authority to impose civil liability on municipalities, and therefore could not have intended to include municipal bodies within the class of "persons" subject to the Act. Reexamination of this legislative history compels the conclusion that Congress, in 1871, would not have thought § 1983 constitutionally infirm if it applied to local governments. In addition, that history confirms that local governments were intended to be included
among the "persons" to which § 1983 applies. Accordingly, Monroe v. Pape is overruled insofar as it holds that local governments are wholly immune from suit under § 1983. Pp. 436 U. S. 664-689.
2. Local governing bodies (and local officials sued in their official capacities) can, therefore, be sued directly under § 1983 for monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief in those situations where, as here, the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted or promulgated by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy. In addition, local governments, like every other § 1983 "person," may be sued for constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to governmental "custom" even though such custom has not received formal approval through the government's official decisionmaking channels. Pp. 436 U. S. 690-691.
3. On the other hand, the language and legislative history of § 1983 compel the conclusion that Congress did not intend a local government to be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor -- in other words, a local government cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory. Pp. 436 U. S. 691-695.
4. Considerations of stare decisis do not counsel against overruling Monroe v. Pape insofar as it is inconsistent with this opinion. Pp. 436 U. S. 695-701.
(a) Monroe v. Pape departed from prior practice insofar as it completely immunized municipalities from suit under § 1983. Moreover, since the reasoning of Monroe does not allow a distinction to be drawn between municipalities and school boards, this Court's many cases holding school boards liable in § 1983 actions are inconsistent with Monroe, especially as the principle of that case was extended to suits for injunctive relief in City of Kenosha v. Bruno,412 U. S. 507. Pp. 436 U. S. 695-696.
(b) Similarly, extending absolute immunity to school boards would be inconsistent with several instances in which Congress has refused to immunize school boards from federal jurisdiction under § 1983. Pp. 436 U. S. 696-699.
(c) In addition, municipalities cannot have arranged their affairs on an assumption that they can violate constitutional rights for an indefinite period; accordingly, municipalities have no reliance interest that would support an absolute immunity. Pp. 436 U. S. 699-700.
(d) Finally, it appears beyond doubt from the legislative history of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 that Monroe misapprehended the meaning of the Act. Were § 1983 unconstitutional as to local governments, it would have been equally unconstitutional as to state or local officers,
yet the 1871 Congress clearly intended § 1983 to apply to such officers and all agreed that such officers could constitutionally be subjected to liability under § 1983. The Act also unquestionably was intended to provide a remedy, to be broadly construed, against all forms of official violation of federally protected rights. Therefore, without a clear statement in the legislative history, which is not present, there is no justification for excluding municipalities from the "persons" covered by § 1983. Pp 436 U. S. 700-701.
532 F.2d 259, reversed.
BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined, and in Parts I, III, and V of which STEVENS, J., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 436 U. S. 704. STEVENS, J., filed a statement concurring in part, post, p. 436 U. S. 714. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., joined, post, p. 436 U. S. 714.
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioners, a class of female employees of the Department of Social Services and of the Board of Education of the city of New York, commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in July, 1971. [Footnote 1] The gravamen of the complaint was that the
Board and the Department had, as a matter of official policy, compelled pregnant employees to take unpaid leaves of absence before such leaves were required for medical reasons. [Footnote 2] Cf. Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur,414 U. S. 632 (1974). The suit sought injunctive relief and backpay for periods of unlawful forced leave. Named as defendants in the action were the Department and its Commissioner, the Board and its Chancellor, and the city of New York and its Mayor. In each case, the individual defendants were sued solely in their official capacities. [Footnote 3]
On cross-motions for summary judgment, the District Court for the Southern District of New York held moot petitioners' claims for injunctive and declaratory relief, since the city of New York and the Board, after the filing of the complaint, had changed their policies relating to maternity leaves so that no pregnant employee would have to take leave unless she was medically unable to continue to perform her job. 94 F.Supp. 853, 855 (1975). No one now challenges this conclusion.
The court did conclude, however, that the acts complained of were unconstitutional under LaFleur, supra. 394 F.Supp. at 855. Nonetheless plaintiffs' prayers for backpay were denied because any such damages would come ultimately from the city of New York and, therefore, to hold otherwise would be to "circumven[t]" the immunity conferred on municipalities by Monroe v. Pape,365 U. S. 167 (1961). See 394 F.Supp. at 855.
On appeal, petitioners renewed their arguments that the Board of Education [Footnote 4] was not a "municipality" within the meaning of Monroe v. Pape, supra, and that, in any event, the District Court had erred in barring a damages award against the individual defendants. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected both contentions. The court first held that the Board of Education was not a "person" under § 1983 because
"it performs a vital governmental function . . . . and, significantly, while it has the right to determine how the funds appropriated to it shall be spent . . . , it has no final say in deciding what its appropriations shall be."
532 F.2d 259, 263 (1976). The individual defendants, however, were "persons" under § 1983, even when sued solely in their official capacities. 532 F.2d at 264. Yet, because a damages award would "have to be paid by a city that was held not to be amenable to such an action in Monroe v. Pape," a damages action against officials sued in their official capacities could not proceed. Id. at 265.
We granted certiorari in this case, 429 U.S. 1071, to consider
"Whether local governmental officials and/or local independent school boards are 'persons' within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 when equitable relief in the nature of back pay is sought against them in their official capacities?"
Pet. for Cert. 8.
Although, after plenary consideration, we have decided the merits of over a score of cases brought under § 1983 in which the principal defendant was a school boar [Footnote 5] -- indeed, in some of which § 1983 and its jurisdictional counterpart, 28 U.S.C. § 1343, provided the only basis for jurisdiction [Footnote 6] -- we indicated in Mt. Healthy City Board of Education v. Doyle,429 U. S. 274, 429 U. S. 279 (1977), last Term that the question presented here was open, and would be decided "another day." That other day has come, and we now overrule Monroe v. Pape, supra, insofar as it holds that local government are wholly immune from suit under § 1983. [Footnote 7]
In Monroe v. Pape, we held that "Congress did not undertake to bring municipal corporations within the ambit of [§ 1983]." 365 U.S. at 365 U. S. 187. The sole basis for this conclusion was an inference drawn from Congress' rejection of the "Sherman amendment" to the bill which became the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13, the precursor of § 1983. The amendment would have held a municipal corporation liable for damage done to the person or property of its inhabitants by private persons "riotously and tumultuously assembled." [Footnote 8] Cong.Globe, 42d Cong., 1st Sess., 749 (1871) (hereinafter Globe). Although the Sherman amendment did not seek to amend § 1 of the Act, which is now § 1983, and although the nature of the obligation created by that amendment was vastly different from that created by § 1, the Court nonetheless concluded in Monroe that Congress must have meant to exclude municipal corporations from the coverage of § 1 because
"'the House [in voting against the Sherman amendment] had solemnly decided that, in their judgment, Congress had no constitutional power to impose any obligation upon county and town organizations, the mere instrumentality for the administration of state law.'"
365 U.S. at 365 U. S. 190 (emphasis added), quoting Globe 804 (Rep. Poland). This statement, we thought, showed that Congress doubted its "constitutional power . . . to impose civil liability on municipalities," 365 U.S. at 365 U. S. 190 (emphasis added), and that such doubt would have extended to any type of civil liability. [Footnote 9]
A fresh analysis of the debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1871, and particularly of the case law which each side mustered in its support, shows, however, that Monroe incorrectly equated the "obligation" of which Representative Poland spoke with "civil liability."
A. An Overview
There are three distinct stages in the legislative consideration of the bill which became the Civil Rights Act of 1871. On March 28, 1871, Representative Shellabarger, acting for a House select committee, reported H.R. 320, a bill "to enforce the provisions of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other purposes." H.R. 320 contained four sections. Section 1, now codified as 42 U.S.C. § 1983, was the subject of only limited debate, and was passed without amendment. [Footnote 10] Sections 2 through 4 dealt primarily with the "other purpose" of suppressing Ku Klux Klan violence in the Southern States. [Footnote 11] The wisdom and constitutionality of these sections -- not § 1, now § 1983 -- were the subject of almost all congressional debate, and each of these sections was amended. The House finished its initial debates on H.R. 320 on April 7, 1871, and, one week later, the Senate also voted out a bill. [Footnote 12] Again, debate on § 1 of the bill was limited, and that section was passed as introduced.
Immediately prior to the vote on H.R. 320 in the Senate, Senator Sherman introduced his amendment. [Footnote 13] This was not an amendment to § 1 of the bill, but was to be added as § 7 at the end of the bill. Under the Senate rules, no discussion of the amendment was allowed, and, although attempts were made to amend the amendment, it was passed as introduced. In this form, the amendment did not place liability on municipal corporations, but made any inhabitant of a municipality liable for damage inflicted by persons "riotously and tumultuously assembled." [Footnote 14]
The House refused to acquiesce in a number of amendments made by the Senate, including the Sherman amendment, and the respective versions of H.R. 320 were therefore sent to a conference committee. Section 1 of the bill, however, was not a subject of this conference since, as noted, it was passed verbatim as introduced in both Houses of Congress.
On April 18, 1871, the first conference committee completed its work on H.R. 320. The main features of the conference committee draft of the Sherman amendment were these: [Footnote 15] first, a cause of action was given to persons injured by
"any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together . . . with intent to deprive any person of any right conferred upon him by the Constitution and laws of the United States, or to deter him or punish him for exercising such right, or by reason of his race, color, or previous condition of servitude. . . . "
Second, the bill provided that the action would be against the county, city, or parish in which the riot had occurred, and that it could be maintained by either the person injured or his legal representative. Third, unlike the amendment as proposed, the conference substitute made the government defendant liable on the judgment if it was not satisfied against individual defendants who had committed the violence. If a municipality were liable, the judgment against it could be collected
"by execution, attachment, mandamus, garnishment, or any other proceeding in aid of execution or applicable to the enforcement of judgments against municipal corporations; and such judgment [would become] a lien as well upon all moneys in the treasury of such county, city, or parish, as upon the other property thereof."
In the ensuing debate on the first conference report, which was the first debate of any kind on the Sherman amendment, Senator Sherman explained that the purpose of his amendment was to enlist the aid of persons of property in the enforcement of the civil rights laws by making their property "responsible" for Ku Klux Klan damage. [Footnote 16] Statutes drafted on a similar theory, he stated, had long been in force in England and were in force in 1871 in a number of States. [Footnote 17]
Nonetheless, there were critical differences between the conference substitute and extant state and English statutes: the conference substitute, unlike most state riot statutes, lacked a short statute of limitations and imposed liability on the government defendant whether or not it had notice of the impending riot, whether or not the municipality was authorized to exercise a police power, whether or not it exerted all reasonable efforts to stop the riot, and whether or not the rioters were caught and punished. [Footnote 18]
The first conference substitute passed the Senate but was rejected by the House. House opponents, within whose ranks were some who had supported § 1, thought the Federal Government could not, consistent with the Constitution, obligate municipal corporations to keep the peace if those corporations were neither so obligated nor so authorized by their state charters. And, because of this constitutional objection, opponents of the Sherman amendment were unwilling to impose damages liability for nonperformance of a duty which Congress could not require municipalities to perform. This position is reflected in Representative Poland's statement that is quoted in Monroe. [Footnote 19]
Because the House rejected the first conference report, a second conference was called, and it duly issued its report. The second conference substitute for the Sherman amendment abandoned municipal liability and, instead, made
or persons having knowledge [that a conspiracy to violate civil rights was afoot], and having power to prevent or aid in preventing the same,"
who did not attempt to stop the same, liable to any person injured by the conspiracy. [Footnote 20] The amendment in this form was adopted by both Houses of Congress, and is now codified as 42 U. S. C. §1986.
The meaning of the legislative history sketched above can most readily be developed by first considering the debate on the report of the first conference committee. This debate shows conclusively that the constitutional objections raised against the Sherman amendment -- on which our holding in Monroe was based, see supra at 664 -- would not have prohibited congressional creation of a civil remedy against state municipal corporations that infringed federal rights. Because §1 of the Civil Rights Act does not state expressly that municipal corporations come within its ambit, it is finally necessary to interpret § 1 to confirm that such corporations were indeed intended to be included within the "persons" to whom that section applies.
B. Debate on the First Conference Report
The style of argument adopted by both proponents and opponents of the Sherman amendment in both Houses of Congress was largely legal, with frequent references to cases decided by this Court and the Supreme Courts of the several States. Proponents of the Sherman amendment did not, however, discuss in detail the argument in favor of its constitutionality. Nonetheless, it is possible to piece together such an argument from the debates on the first conference report and those on § 2 of the civil rights bill, which, because it allowed the Federal Government to prosecute crimes "in the States," had also raised questions of federal power. The account of Representative Shellabarger, the House sponsor of H R. 320, is the most complete.
Shellabarger began his discussion of H.R. 320 by stating that "there is a domain of constitutional law involved in the right consideration of this measure which is wholly unexplored." Globe App. 67. There were analogies, however. With respect to the meaning of § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and particularly its Privileges or Immunities Clause, Shellabarger relied on the statement of Mr. Justice Washington in Corfield v. Coryell, 4 Wash.C.C. 371 (CC ED Pa. 1825), which defined the privileges protected by Art. IV:
"'What these fundamental privileges are[,] it would perhaps be more tedious than difficult to enumerate. They may, however, be all comprehended under the following general heads: protection by the Government;' -- "
"Mark that -- "
"'protection by the Government; the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right to acquire and possess property of every kind, and to pursue and obtain happiness and safety. . . .'"
Globe App. 69 (emphasis added), quoting 4 Wash.C.C. at 380-381.
Building on his conclusion that citizens were owed protection -- a conclusion not disputed by opponents of the Sherman amendment [Footnote 21] -- Shellabarger then considered Congress' role in providing that protection. Here again there were precedents: "[Congress has always assumed to enforce, as against
the States, and also persons, every one of the provisions of the Constitution. Most of the provisions of the Constitution which restrain and directly relate to the States, such as those in [Art. I, § 10,] relate to the divisions of the political powers of the State and General Governments. . . . These prohibitions upon political powers of the States are all of such nature that they can be, and even have been, . . . enforced by the courts of the United States declaring void all State acts of encroachment on Federal powers. Thus, and thus sufficiently, has the United States "enforced" these provisions of the Constitution. But there are some that are not of this class. These are where the court secures the rights or the liabilities of persons within the States, as between such persons and the States.
"These three are: first, that as to fugitives from justice; [Footnote 22] second, that as to fugitives from service, (or slaves;) [Footnote 23] third, that declaring that the 'citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.' [Footnote 24] "
"And, sir, every one of these -- the only provisions where it was deemed that legislation was required to enforce the constitutional provisions -- the only three where the rights or liabilities of persons in the States, as between these persons and the States, are directly provided for, Congress has by legislation affirmatively interfered to protect . . . such persons."
Globe App. 69-70.
Of legislation mentioned by Shellabarger, the closest analog of the Sherman amendment, ironically, was the statute implementing the fugitives from justice and fugitive slave provisions of Art. IV -- the Act of Feb. 12, 1793, 1 Stat. 302 the constitutionality of which had been sustained in 1842, in Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 16 Pet. 539. There, Mr. Justice Story, writing for the Court, held that Art. IV gave slaveowners a federal right to the unhindered possession of their slaves in whatever State such slaves might be found. 16 Pet. at 41 U. S. 612. Because state process for recovering runaway slaves might be inadequate or even hostile to the rights of the slaveowner, the right intended to be conferred could be negated if left to state implementation. Id. at 41 U. S. 614. Thus, since the Constitution guaranteed the right, and this, in turn, required a remedy, Story held it to be a "natural inference" that Congress had the power itself to ensure an appropriate (in the Necessary and Proper Clause sense) remedy for the right. Id. at 41 U. S. 615.
Building on Prigg, Shellabarger argued that a remedy against municipalities and counties was an appropriate -- and hence constitutional -- method for ensuring the protection which the Fourteenth Amendment made every citizen's federal right. [Footnote 25] This much was clear from the adoption of such statutes by the several States as devices for suppressing riot. [Footnote 26] Thus, said Shellabarger, the only serious question remaining
"whether, since a county is an integer or part of a State, the United States can impose upon it, as such, any obligations to keep the peace in obedience to United States laws. [Footnote 27]"
This he answered affirmatively, citing Board of Comm'rs v. Aspinwall, 24 How. 376 (1861), the first of many cases [Footnote 28] upholding the power of federal courts to enforce the Contract Clause against municipalities. [Footnote 29]
House opponents of the Sherman amendment -- whose views are particularly important, since only the House voted down the amendment -- did not dispute Shellabarger's claim that the Fourteenth Amendment created a federal right to protection, see n. 21supra, but they argued that the local units of government upon which the amendment fastened liability were not obligated to keep the peace at state law, and further that the Federal Government could not constitutionally require local governments to create police forces, whether this requirement was levied directly, or indirectly by imposing damages for breach of the peace on municipalities. The most complete statement of this position is that of Representative Blair: [Footnote 30]
"The proposition known as the Sherman amendment . . .
is entirely new. It is altogether without a precedent in this country. . . . That amendment claims the power in the General Government to go into the States of this Union and lay such obligations as it may please upon the municipalities, which are the creations of the States alone. . . . "
". . . [H]ere it is proposed not to carry into effect an obligation which rests upon the municipality, but to
create that obligation, and that is the provision I am unable to assent to. The parallel of the hundred does not in the least meet the case. The power that laid the obligation upon the hundred first put the duty upon the hundred that it should perform in that regard, and failing to meet the obligation which had been laid upon it, it was very proper that it should suffer damage for its neglect. . . ."
". . . [T]here are certain rights and duties that belong to the States, . . . there are certain powers that inhere in the State governments. They create these municipalities, they say what their powers shall be and what their obligations shall be. If the Government of the United States can step in and add to those obligations, may it not utterly destroy the municipality? If it can say that it shall be liable for damages occurring from a riot, . . . where [will] its power . . . stop and what obligations . . . might [it] not lay upon a municipality. . . . "
"Now, only the other day, the Supreme Court . . . decided [in Collector v. Day, 11 Wall. 113 (1871)] that there is no power in the Government of the United States, under its authority to tax, to tax the salary of a State officer. Why? Simply because the power to tax involves the power to destroy, and it was not the intent to give the Government of the United States power to destroy the government of the States in any respect. It was held also in the case of Prigg vs. Pennsylvania [16 Pet. 539 (1842)] that it is not within the power of the Congress of the United States to lay duties upon a State officer; that we cannot command a State officer to do any duty whatever, as such; and I ask . . . the difference between that and commanding a municipality, which is equally the creature of the State, to perform a duty."
Any attempt to impute a unitary constitutional theory to opponents of the Sherman amendment is, of course, fraught
with difficulties, not the least of which is that most Members of Congress did not speak to the issue of the constitutionality of the amendment. Nonetheless, two considerations lead us to conclude that opponents of the Sherman amendment found it unconstitutional substantially because of the reasons stated by Representative Blair: first, Blair's analysis is precisely that of Poland, whose views were quoted as authoritative in Monroe, see supra at 436 U. S. 664, and that analysis was shared in large part by all House opponents who addressed the constitutionality of the Sherman amendment. [Footnote 31] Second, Blair's exegesis of the reigning constitutional theory of his day, as we shall explain, was clearly supported by precedent -- albeit precedent that has not survived, see Ex parte Virginia,100 U. S. 339, 100 U. S. 347-348 (1880); Graves v. New York ex rel. O'Keefe,306 U. S. 466, 306 U. S. 486 (1939) -- and no other constitutional formula was advanced by participants in the House debates.
Collector v. Day, cited by Blair, was the clearest and, at the time of the debates, the most recent pronouncement of a doctrine of coordinate sovereignty that, as Blair stated, placed limits on even the enumerated powers of the National Government in favor of protecting state prerogatives. There, the Court held that the United States could not tax the income of Day, a Massachusetts state judge, because the independence of the States within their legitimate spheres would be imperiled if the instrumentalities through which States executed their powers were "subject to the control of another and distinct government." 11 Wall. at 78 U. S. 127. Although the Court in Day apparently rested this holding in part on the proposition that the taxing "power acknowledges no limits but the will of the legislative body imposing the tax," id. at 78 U. S. 125-126; cf. 17 U. S. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316 (1819), the Court had, in other cases, limited other national powers in order to avoid interference with the States. [Footnote 32]
In Prigg v. Pennsylvania, for example, Mr. Justice Story, in addition to confirming a broad national power to legislate under the Fugitive Slave Clause, see supra at 436 U. S. 672, held that Congress could not "insist that states . . . provide means to carry into effect the duties of the national government." 16 Pet. at 41 U. S. 615-16. [Footnote 33] And Mr. Justice McLean agreed that, "[a]s a general principle," it was true "that Congress had no power to impose duties on state officers, as provided in the [Act of Feb. 12, 1793]." Nonetheless, he wondered whether Congress might not impose "positive" duties on state officers where a clause of the Constitution, like the Fugitive Slave Clause, seemed to require affirmative government assistance, rather than restraint of government, to secure federal rights. See id. at 41 U. S. 664-665.
Had Mr. Justice McLean been correct in his suggestion that, where the Constitution envisioned affirmative government assistance, the States or their officers or instrumentalities could be required to provide it, there would have been little doubt that Congress could have insisted that municipalities afford by "positive" action the protection [Footnote 34] owed individuals under § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment whether or not municipalities were obligated by state law to keep the peace. However, any such argument, largely foreclosed by Prigg, was made
impossible by the Court's holding in Kentucky v. Dennison, 24 How. 66 (1861). There, the Court was asked to require Dennison, the Governor of Ohio, to hand over Lago, a fugitive from justice wanted in Kentucky, as required by § 1 of the Act of Feb. 12, 1793, [Footnote 35] which implemented Art. IV, § 2, cl. 2, of the Constitution. Mr. Chief Justice Taney, writing for a unanimous Court, refused to enforce that section of the Act:
"[W]e think it clear that the Federal Government, under the Constitution, has no power to impose on a State officer, as such, any duty whatever, and compel him to perform it; for if it possessed this power, it might overload the officer with duties which would fill up all his time, and disable him from performing his obligations to the State, and might impose on him duties of a character incompatible with the rank and dignity to which he was elevated by the State."
24 How. at 65 U. S. 107-108
The rationale of Dennison -- that the Nation could not impose duties on state officers since that might impede States in their legitimate activities -- is obviously identical to that which animated the decision in Collector v. Day.See supra at 436 U. S. 676. And, as Blair indicated, municipalities, as instrumentalities through which States executed their policies, could be equally disabled from carrying out state policies if they were also obligated to carry out federally imposed duties. Although no one cited Dennison by name, the principle for which it
stands was well known to Members of Congress, [Footnote 36] many of whom discussed Day [Footnote 37] as well as a series of State Supreme Court cases [Footnote 38] in the mid-1860's which had invalidated a federal tax on the process of state courts on the ground that the tax threatened the independence of a vital state function. [Footnote 39] Thus, there was ample support for Blair's view that the Sherman amendment, by putting municipalities to the Hobson's choice of keeping the peace or paying civil damages, attempted to impose obligations on municipalities by indirection that could not be imposed directly, thereby threatening to "destroy the government of the States." Globe 795.
If municipal liability under § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 created a similar Hobson's choice, we might conclude, as Monroe did, that Congress could not have intended municipalities to be among the "persons" to which that section applied. But this is not the case.
First, opponents expressly distinguished between imposing an obligation to keep the peace and merely imposing civil liability for damages on a municipality that was obligated by state law to keep the peace, but which had not in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Representative Poland, for example, reasoning from Contract Clause precedents, indicated that Congress could constitutionally confer jurisdiction on the federal courts to entertain suits seeking to hold municipalities
liable for using their authorized powers in violation of the Constitution -- which is as far as § 1 of the Civil Rights Act went:
"I presume . . . that where a State had imposed a duty [to keep the peace] upon [a] municipality . . . , an action would be allowed to be maintained against them in the courts of the United States under the ordinary restrictions as to jurisdiction. But the enforcing a liability, existing by their own contract, or by a State law, in the courts is a very widely different thing from devolving a new duty or liability upon them by the national Government, which has no power either to create or destroy them, and no power or control over them whatever."
Representative Burchard agreed:
"[T]here is no duty imposed by the Constitution of the United States, or usually by State laws, upon a county to protect the people of that county against the commission of the offenses herein enumerated, such as the burning of buildings or any other injury to property or injury to person. Police powers are not conferred upon counties as corporations; they are conferred upon cities that have qualified legislative power. And so far as cities are concerned, where the equal protection required to be afforded by a State is imposed upon a city by State laws, perhaps the United States courts could enforce its performance. But counties . . . do not have any control of the police. . . ."
Id. at 795. See also the views of Rep. Willard, discussed at n 30, supra. Second, the doctrine of dual sovereignty apparently put no limit on the power of federal courts to enforce the Constitution against municipalities that violated it. Under the theory of dual sovereignty set out in Prigg, this is quite understandable. So long as federal courts were vindicating the Federal Constitution, they were providing the "positive" government action
required to protect federal constitutional rights, and no question was raised of enlisting the States in "positive" action. The limits of the principles announced in Dennison and Day are not so well defined in logic, but are clear as a matter of history. It must be remembered that the same Court which rendered Day also vigorously enforced the Contract Clause against municipalities -- an enforcement effort which included various forms of "positive" relief, such as ordering that taxes be levied and collected to discharge federal court judgments, once a constitutional infraction was found. [Footnote 40] Thus, federal judicial enforcement of the Constitution's express limits on state power, since it was done so frequently, must, notwithstanding anything said in Dennison or Day, have been permissible, at least so long as the interpretation of the Constitution was left in the hands of the judiciary. Since § 1 of the Civil Rights Act simply conferred jurisdiction on the federal courts to enforce § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment -- a situation precisely analogous to the grant of diversity jurisdiction under which the Contract Clause was enforced against municipalities
-- there is no reason to suppose that opponents of the Sherman amendment would have found any constitutional barrier to § 1 suits against municipalities.
Finally, the very votes of those Members of Congress, who opposed the Sherman amendment, but who had voted for § 1, confirm that the liability imposed by § 1 was something very different from that imposed by the amendment. Section 1 without question could be used to obtain a damages judgment against state or municipal officials who violated federal constitutional rights while acting under color of law. [Footnote 41] However, for Prigg-Dennison-Day purposes, as Blair and others recognized, [Footnote 42] there was no distinction of constitutional magnitude between officers and agents -- including corporate agents -- of the State: both were state instrumentalities, and the State could be impeded no matter over which sort of instrumentality the Federal Government sought to assert its power. Dennison and Day, after all, were not suits against municipalities, but against officers, and Blair was quite conscious that he was extending these cases by applying them to municipal corporations. [Footnote 43] Nonetheless, Senator Thurman, who gave the most exhaustive critique of § 1 -- inter alia, complaining that it would be applied to state officers, see Globe App. 217 -- and who opposed both § 1 and the Sherman amendment, the latter on Prigg grounds, agreed unequivocally that § 1 was constitutional. [Footnote 44]
Those who voted for § 1 must similarly have believed in its constitutionality despite Prigg, Dennison, and Day.
C. Debate on § 1 of the Civil Rights Bill
From the foregoing discussion, it is readily apparent that nothing said in debate on the Sherman amendment would have prevented holding a municipality liable under § 1 of the Civil Rights Act for its own violations of the Fourteenth Amendment. The question remains, however, whether the general language describing those to be liable under § 1 -- "any person" -- covers more than natural persons. An examination of the debate on § 1 and application of appropriate rules of construction show unequivocally that § 1 was intended to cover legal, as well as natural, persons.
Representative Shellabarger was the first to explain the function of § 1:
"[Section 1] not only provides a civil remedy for persons whose former condition may have been that of slaves, but also to all people where, under color of State law, they or any of them may be deprived of rights to which they are entitled under the Constitution by reason and virtue of their national citizenship."
Globe App. 68. By extending a remedy to all people, including whites, § 1 went beyond the mischief to which the remaining sections of the 1871 Act were addressed. Representative Shellabarger also stated without reservation that the constitutionality of § 2 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 controlled the constitutionality of § 1 of the 1871 Act, and that the former had been
approved by "the supreme courts of at least three States of this Union" and by Mr. Justice Swayne, sitting on circuit, who had concluded: "We have no doubt of the constitutionality of every provision of this act.'" Globe App. 68. Representative Shellabarger then went on to describe how the courts would and should interpret § 1:
"This act is remedial, and in aid of the preservation of human liberty and human rights. All statutes and constitutional provisions authorizing such statutes are liberally and beneficently construed. It would be most strange and, in civilized law, monstrous were this not the rule of interpretation. As has been again and again decided by your own Supreme Court of the United States, and everywhere else where there is wise judicial interpretation, the largest latitude consistent with the words employed is uniformly given in construing such statutes and constitutional provisions as are meant to protect and defend and give remedies for their wrongs to all the people. . . . Chief Justice Jay and also Story say:"
" Where a power is remedial in its nature, there is much reason to contend that it ought to be construed liberally, and it is generally adopted in the interpretation of laws."
"1 story on Constitution, sec. 429."
Globe App. at 68.
The sentiments expressed in Representative Shellabarger's opening speech were echoed by Senator Edmunds, the manager of H.R. 320 in the Senate:
"The first section is one that I believe nobody objects to, as defining the rights secured by the Constitution of the United States when they are assailed by any State law or under color of any State law, and it is merely carrying out the principles of the civil rights bill [of 1866], which have since become a part of the Constitution."
"[Section 1 is] so very simple, and really reenact[s] the Constitution."
Id. at 569. And he agreed that the bill "secure[d] the rights of white men as much as of colored men." Id. at 696.
In both Houses, statements of the supporters of § 1 corroborated that Congress, in enacting § 1, intended to give a broad remedy for violations of federally protected civil rights. [Footnote 45] Moreover, since municipalities, through their official
acts could, equally with natural persons, create the harms intended to be remedied by § 1, and, further, since Congress intended § 1 to be broadly construed, there is no reason to suppose that municipal corporations would have been excluded from the sweep of § 1. Cf., e.g., Ex parte Virginia,100 U. S. 339, 100 U. S. 346-347 (1880); Home Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Los Angeles,227 U. S. 278, 227 U. S. 286-287, 227 U. S. 294-296 (1913). One need not rely on this inference alone, however, for the debates show that Members of Congress understood "persons" to include municipal corporations.
Representative Bingham, for example, in discussing § 1 of the bill, explained that he had drafted § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment with the case of Barron v. Mayor of Baltimore, 7 Pet. 243 (1833), especially in mind.
"In [that] case, the
city had taken private property for public use, without compensation . . . , and there was no redress for the wrong. . . ."
Globe App. 84 (emphasis added). Bingham's further remarks clearly indicate his view that such takings by cities, as had occurred in Barron, would be redressable under § 1 of the bill. See Globe App. 85. More generally, and as Bingham's remarks confirm, § 1 of the bill would logically be the vehicle by which Congress provided redress for takings, since that section provided the only civil remedy for Fourteenth Amendment violations and that Amendment unequivocally prohibited uncompensated takings. [Footnote 46] Given this purpose, it beggars reason to suppose that Congress would have exempted municipalities from suit, insisting instead that compensation for a taking come from an officer in his individual capacity, rather than from the government unit that had the benefit of the property taken. [Footnote 47]
In addition, by 1871, it was well understood that corporations should be treated as natural persons for virtually all purposes of constitutional and statutory analysis. This had not always been so. When this Court first considered the question of the status of corporations, Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, writing for the Court, denied that corporations "as such" were persons as that term was used in Art. III and the Judiciary Act of 1789. See Bank of the United States v. Deveaux, 5 Cranch 61, 9 U. S. 86 (1809). [Footnote 48] By 1844, however, the Deveaux doctrine was unhesitatingly abandoned:
"[A] corporation created by and doing business in a particular
state, is to be deemed to all intents and purposes as a person, although an artificial person, . . . capable of being treated as a citizen of that state, as much as a natural person."
Louisville R. Co. v. Letson, 2 How. 497, 43 U. S. 558 (1844) (emphasis added), discussed in Globe 752. And only two years before the debates on the Civil Rights Act, in Cowles v. Mercer County, 7 Wall. 118, 74 U. S. 121 (1869), the Letson principle was automatically and without discussion extended to municipal corporations. Under this doctrine, municipal corporations were routinely sued in the federal courts [Footnote 49] and this fact was well known to Members of Congress. [Footnote 50]
That the "usual" meaning of the word "person" would extend to municipal corporations is also evidenced by an Act of Congress which had been passed only months before the Civil Rights Act was passed. This Act provided that
"in all acts hereafter passed . . . , the word 'person' may extend and be applied to bodies politic and corporate . . . unless the context shows that such words were intended to be used in a more limited sense."
Act of Feb. 25, 1871, § 2, 16 Stat. 431. Municipal corporations in 1871 were included within the phrase "bodies politic and corporate" [Footnote 51] and, accordingly, the
"plain meaning" of § 1 is that local government bodies were to be included within the ambit of the persons who could be sued under § 1 of the Civil Rights Act. Indeed, a Circuit Judge, writing in 1873 in what is apparently the first reported case under § 1, read the Dictionary Act in precisely this way in a case involving a corporate plaintiff and a municipal defendant. [Footnote 52] See Northwestern Fertilizing Co. v. Hyde Park, 18 F.Cas. 393, 394 (No. 10,336) (CC ND Ill. 1873). [Footnote 53]
Our analysis of the legislative history of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 compels the conclusion that Congress did intend municipalities and other local government units to be included among those persons to whom § 1983 applies. [Footnote 54] Local governing bodies, [Footnote 55] therefore, can be sued directly under § 1983 for monetary, declaratory, or injunctive relief where, as here, the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body's officers. Moreover, although the touchstone of the § 1983 action against a government body is an allegation that official policy is responsible for a deprivation of rights protected by the Constitution, local governments, like every other § 1983 "person," by the very terms of the statute, may be sued for constitutional
deprivations visited pursuant to governmental "custom" even though such a custom has not received formal approval through the body's official decisionmaking channels. As Mr. Justice Harlan, writing for the Court, said in Adickes v. H. Kress & Co.,398 U. S. 144, 398 U. S. 167-168 (1970):
"Congress included customs and usages [in § 1983] because of the persistent and widespread discriminatory practices of state officials. . . . Although not authorized by written law, such practices of state officials could well be so permanent and well settled as to constitute a 'custom or usage' with the force of law. [Footnote 56]"
On the other hand, the language of § 1983, read against the background of the same legislative history, compels the conclusion that Congress did not intend municipalities to be held liable unless action pursuant to official municipal policy of some nature caused a constitutional tort. In particular, we conclude that a municipality cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor -- or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.
We begin with the language of § 1983 as originally passed:
"[A]ny person who, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State, shall subject, or cause to be subjected, any person . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States, shall, any such
law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of the State to the contrary notwithstanding, be liable to the party injured in any action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. . . ."
17 Stat. 13 (emphasis added). The italicized language plainly imposes liability on a government that, under color of some official policy, "causes" an employee to violate another's constitutional rights. At the same time, that language cannot be easily read to impose liability vicariously on governing bodies solely on the basis of the existence of an employer-employee relationship with a tortfeasor. Indeed, the fact that Congress did specifically provide that A's tort. became B's liability if B "caused" A to subject another to a tort suggests that Congress did not intend § 1983 liability to attach where such causation was absent. [Footnote 57] See Rizzo v. Goode,423 U. S. 362, 423 U. S. 370-371 (1976).
Equally important, creation of a federal law of respondeat superior would have raised all the constitutional problems associated with the obligation to keep the peace, an obligation Congress chose not to impose because it thought imposition of such an obligation unconstitutional. To this day, there is disagreement about the basis for imposing liability on an employer for the torts of an employee when the sole nexus between the employer and the tort is the fact of the employer-employee relationship. See W. Prosser, Law of Torts § 69, p. 459 (4th ed.1971). Nonetheless, two justifications tend to stand out. First is the common sense notion that, no matter how blameless an employer appears to be in an individual case, accidents might nonetheless be reduced if employers had to bear the cost of accidents. See, e.g., ibid.; 2 F. Harper & F. James, Law of Torts, § 26.3, pp. 1368-1369 (1956). Second is the argument that the cost of accidents should be
spread to the community as a whole on an insurance theory. See, e.g., id. § 6.5; Prosser, supra at 459. [Footnote 58]
The first justification is of the same sort that was offered for statutes like the Sherman amendment:
"The obligation to make compensation for injury resulting from riot is by arbitrary enactment of statutes, affirmatory law, and the reason of passing the statute is to secure a more perfect police regulation."
Globe 777 (Sen. Frelinghuysen). This justification was obviously insufficient to sustain the amendment against perceived constitutional difficulties, and there is no reason to suppose that a more general liability imposed for a similar reason would have been thought less constitutionally objectionable. The second justification was similarly put forward as a justification for the Sherman amendment: "we do not look upon [the Sherman amendment] as a punishment. . . . It is a mutual insurance." Id. at 792 (Rep. Butler). Again, this justification was insufficient to sustain the amendment.
We conclude, therefore, that a local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government, as an entity, is responsible under § 1983. Since this case unquestionably involves official policy as the moving force of the constitutional violation found by the District Court, see supra at
436 U. S. 660-662, and n. 2, we must reverse the judgment below. In so doing, we have no occasion to address, and do not address, what the full contours of municipal liability under § 1983 may be. We have attempted only to sketch so much of the § 1983 cause of action against a local government as is apparent from the history of the 1871 Act and our prior cases, and we expressly leave further development of this action to another day.
Although we have stated that stare decisis has more force in statutory analysis than in constitutional adjudication because, in the former situation, Congress can correct our mistakes through legislation, see, e.g., Edelman v. Jordan,415 U. S. 651, 415 U. S. 671, and n. 14 (1974), we have never applied stare decisis mechanically to prohibit overruling our earlier decisions determining the meaning of statutes. See, e.g., Continental T.V., Inc. v. GTE Sylvania, Inc.,433 U. S. 36, 433 U. S. 47-49 (1977); Burnet v. Coronado Oil & Gas Co.,285 U. S. 393, 285 U. S. 406 n. 1 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting) (collecting cases). Nor is this a case where we should "place on the shoulders of Congress the burden of the Court's own error." Girouard v. United States,328 U. S. 61, 328 U. S. 70 (1946).
First, Monroe v. Pape, insofar as it completely immunizes municipalities from suit under § 1983, was a departure from prior practice. See, e.g., Northwestern Fertilizing Co. v. Hyde Park, 18 F.Cas. 393 (No. 10,336) (CC ND Ill. 1873); City of Manchester v. Leiby, 117 F.2d 661 (CA1 1941); Hannan v. City of Haverhill, 120 F.2d 87 (CA1 1941); Douglas v. City of Jeannette,319 U. S. 157 (1943); Holmes v. Atlanta, 350 U.S. 879 (1955), in each of which municipalities were defendants in § 1983 suits. [Footnote 59] Moreover, the constitutional defect
that led to the rejection of the Sherman amendment would not have distinguished between municipalities and school boards, each of which is an instrumentality of state administration. See supra at 436 U. S. 673-682. For this reason, our cases -- decided both before and after Monroe, seen 5, supra -- holding school boards liable in § 1983 actions are inconsistent with Monroe, especially as Monroe's immunizing principle was extended to suits for injunctive relief in City of Kenosha v. Bruno,412 U. S. 507 (1973). [Footnote 60] And although, in many of these cases, jurisdiction was not questioned, we ought not "disregard the implications of an exercise of judicial authority assumed to be proper for  years." Brown Shoe Co. v. United States,370 U. S. 294, 370 U. S. 307 (1962); see Bank of the United States v. Deveaux, 5 Cranch at 9 U. S. 88 (Marshall, C.J.) ("Those decisions are not cited as authority . . . , but they have much weight, as they show that this point neither occurred to the bar or the bench"). Thus, while we have reaffirmed Monroe without further examination on three occasions, [Footnote 61] it can scarcely be said that Monroe is so consistent with the warp and woof of civil rights law as to be beyond question.
Second, the principle of blanket immunity established in Monroe cannot be cabined short of school boards. Yet such an extension would itself be inconsistent with recent expressions of congressional intent. In the wake of our decisions, Congress not only has shown no hostility to federal court decisions against school boards, but it has indeed rejected efforts to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over school boards. [Footnote 62] Moreover, recognizing that school boards are often
defendants in school desegregation suits, which have almost without exception been § 1983 suits, Congress has twice passed legislation authorizing grants to school boards to assist them in complying with federal court decrees. [Footnote 63] Finally, in
regard to the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976, 90 Stat. 2641, 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (1976 ed.), which allows prevailing parties (in the discretion of the court) in § 1983 suits
to obtain attorney's fees from the losing parties, the Senate stated:
"[D]efendants in these cases are often State or local bodies or State or local officials. In such cases, it is intended that the attorneys' fees, like other items of costs, will be collected either directly from the official, in his official capacity, from funds of his agency or under his control, or from the State or local government (whether or not the agency or government is a named party)."
S.Rep. No. 94-1011, p. 5 (1976) (emphasis added; footnotes omitted). Far from showing that Congress has relied on Monroe, therefore, events since 1961 show that Congress has refused to extend the benefits of Monroe to school boards, and has attempted to allow awards of attorney's fees against local governments even though Monroe,City of Kenosha v. Bruno, and Aldinger v. Howard,427 U. S. 1 (1976), have made the joinder of such governments impossible. [Footnote 64]
Third, municipalities can assert no reliance claim which can
support an absolute immunity. As Mr. Justice Frankfurter said in Monroe,
"[t]his is not an area of commercial law in which, presumably, individuals may have arranged their affairs in reliance on the expected stability of decision."
365 U.S. at 365 U. S. 221-222 (dissenting in part). Indeed, municipalities simply cannot "arrange their affairs" on an assumption that they can violate constitutional rights indefinitely, since injunctive suits against local officials under § 1983 would prohibit any such arrangement. And it scarcely need be mentioned that nothing in Monroe encourages municipalities to violate constitutional rights or even suggests that such violations are anything other than completely wrong.
Finally, even under the most stringent test for the propriety of overruling a statutory decision proposed by Mr. Justice Harlan in Monroe [Footnote 65] -- "that it appear beyond doubt from the legislative history of the 1871 statute that [Monroe] misapprehended the meaning of the [section]," 365 U.S. at 365 U. S. 192 (concurring opinion) -- the overruling of Monroe insofar as it holds that local governments are not "persons" who may be defendants in § 1983 suits is clearly proper. It is simply beyond doubt that, under the 1871 Congress' view of the law, were § 1983 liability unconstitutional as to local governments, it would have been equally unconstitutional as to state officers. Yet everyone -- proponents and opponents alike -- knew § 1983 would be applied to state officers, and nonetheless stated that § 1983 was constitutional. See supra at 436 U. S. 680-682. And, moreover, there can be no doubt that § 1 of the Civil Rights Act was intended to provide a remedy, to be broadly construed, against all forms of official violation of federally protected
rights. Therefore, absent a clear statement in the legislative history supporting the conclusion that § 1 was not to apply to the official acts of a municipal corporation -- which simply is not present -- there is no justification for excluding municipalities from the "persons" covered by § 1.
For the reasons stated above, therefore, we hold that stare decisis does not bar our overruling of Monroe insofar as it is inconsistent with Parts I and II of this opinion. [Footnote 66]
Since the question whether local government bodies should be afforded some form of official immunity was not presented as a question to be decided on this petition and was not briefed by the parties or addressed by the courts below, we express no views on the scope of any municipal immunity beyond holding that municipal bodies sued under § 1983 cannot be entitled to an absolute immunity, lest our decision that such bodies are subject to suit under § 1983 "be drained of meaning," Scheuer v. Rhodes,416 U. S. 232, 416 U. S. 248 (1974). Cf. Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents,403 U. S. 388, 403 U. S. 397-398 (1971).
For the reasons stated above, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is
|436 U.S. 658app|
APPENDIX TO OPINION OF THE COURT
As proposed, the Sherman amendment was as follows:
"That if any house, tenement, cabin, shop, building, barn, or granary shall be unlawfully or feloniously demolished, pulled down, burned, or destroyed, wholly or in part, by any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together; or if any person shall unlawfully and with force and violence be whipped, scourged, wounded, or killed by any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together; and if such offense was committed to deprive any person of any right conferred upon him by the Constitution and laws of the United States, or to deter him or punish him for exercising such right, or by reason of his race, color, or previous condition of servitude, in every such case the inhabitants of the county, city, or parish in which any of the said offenses shall be committed shall be liable to pay full compensation to the person or persons damnified by such offense if living, or to his widow or legal representative if dead; and such compensation may be recovered by such person or his representative by a suit in any court of the United States of competent jurisdiction in the district in which the offense was committed, to be in the name of the person injured, or his legal representative, and against said county, city, or parish. And execution may be issued on a judgment rendered in such suit and may be levied upon any property, real or personal, of any person in said county, city, or parish, and the said county, city, or parish may recover the full amount of such judgment, costs and interest,
from any person or persons engaged as principal or accessory in such riot in an action in any court of competent jurisdiction."
The complete text of the first conference substitute for the Sherman amendment is:
"That if any house, tenement, cabin, shop, building, barn, or granary shall be unlawfully or feloniously demolished, pulled down, burned, or destroyed, wholly or in part, by any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together; or if any person shall unlawfully and with force and violence be whipped, scourged, wounded, or killed by any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together, with intent to deprive any person of any right conferred upon him by the Constitution and laws of the United States, or to deter him or punish him for exercising such right, or by reason of his race, color, or previous condition of servitude, in every such case the county, city, or parish in which any of the said offenses shall be committed shall be liable to pay full compensation to the person or persons damnified by such offense, if living, or to his widow or legal representative if dead; and such compensation may be recovered in an action on the case by such person or his representative in any court of the United States of competent jurisdiction in the district in which the offense was committed, such action to be in the name of the person injured, or his legal representative, and against said county, city, or parish, and in which action any of the parties committing such acts may be joined as defendants. And any payment of any judgment, or part thereof unsatisfied, recovered by the plaintiff in such action, may, if not satisfied by the individual defendant therein within two months next after the recovery of such judgment upon execution duly issued against such individual defendant in such judgment, and returned unsatisfied, in whole or in part, be enforced
against such county, city, or parish, by execution, attachment, mandamus, garnishment, or any other proceeding in aid of execution or applicable to the enforcement of judgments against municipal corporations; and such judgment shall be a lien as well upon all moneys in the treasury of such county, city, or parish, as upon the other property thereof. And the court in any such action may on motion cause additional parties to be made therein prior to issue joined, to the end that justice may be done. And the said county, city, or parish may recover the full amount of such judgment, by it paid, with costs and interest, from any person or persons engaged as principal or accessory in such riot, in an action in any court of competent jurisdiction. And such county, city, or parish, so paying, shall also be subrogated to all the plaintiff's rights under such judgment."
Id. at 749, 755.
The relevant text of the second conference substitute for the Sherman amendment is as follows:
"[A]ny person or persons having knowledge that any of the wrongs conspired to be done and mentioned in the second section of this act are about to be committed, and having power to prevent or aid in preventing the same, shall neglect or refuse so to do, and such wrongful act shall be committed, such person or persons shall be liable to the person injured, or his legal representatives."
Id. at 804 (emphasis added).
The complaint was amended on September 14, 1972, to allege a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. V). The District Court held that the 1972 amendments to Title VII did not apply retroactively to discrimination suffered prior to those amendments even when an action challenging such prior discrimination was pending on the date of the amendments. 394 F.Supp. 853, 856 (SDNY 1975). This holding was affirmed on appeal. 532 F.2d 259, 261-262 (CA2 1976). Although petitioners sought certiorari on the Title VII issue as well as the § 1983 claim, we restricted our grant of certiorari to the latter issue. 429 U.S. 1071.
The plaintiffs alleged that New York had a citywide policy of forcing women to take maternity leave after the fifth month of pregnancy unless a city physician and the head of an employee's agency allowed up to an additional two months of work. Amended Complaint
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