Maine v. Thiboutot
448 U.S. 1 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1 (1980)

Maine v. Thiboutot

No. 79-838

Argued April 22, 1980

Decided June 25, 1980

448 U.S. 1

Syllabus

Held:

1. Title 42 U.S.C. §1983 -- which provides that anyone who, under color of state statute, regulation, or custom deprives another of any rights, privileges, or immunities "secured by the Constitution and laws" shall be liable to the injured party -- encompasses claims based on purely statutory violations of federal law, such as respondents' state court claim that petitioners had deprived them of welfare benefits to which they were entitled under the federal Social Security Act. Given that Congress attached no modifiers to the phrase "and laws," the plain language of the statute embraces respondents' claim, and even were the language ambiguous, this Court's earlier decisions, including cases involving Social Security Act claims, explicitly or implicitly suggest that the §1983 remedy broadly encompasses violations of federal statutory as well as constitutional law. Cf., e.g., Rosado v. Wyman,397 U. S. 397; Edelman v. Jordan,415 U. S. 651; Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services,436 U. S. 658. Pp. 448 U. S. 4-8.

2. In view of its plain language and legislative history, the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. §1988 -- which provides that attorney's fees may be awarded to the prevailing party (other than the United States) in "any action . . . to enforce" a provision of §1983, inter alia, and which makes no exception for statutory §1983 actions -- authorizes the award of attorney's fees in such actions.

Page 448 U. S. 2

Moreover, it follows from the legislative history and from the Supremacy Clause that the fee provision is part of the §1983 remedy whether the action is brought in a federal court or, as was the instant action, in a state court. Pp. 448 U. S. 11.

405 A.2d 230, affirmed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 448 U. S. 11.

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