Allen v. McCurry
449 U.S. 90 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90 (1980)

Allen v. McCurry

No. 79-935

Argued October 8, 1980

Decided December 9, 1980

449 U.S. 90

Syllabus

At a hearing before respondent's criminal trial, a Missouri court denied, in part, respondent's motion to suppress, on Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment grounds, certain evidence that had been seized by the police. Respondent was subsequently convicted, and the conviction was affirmed on appeal. Because he did not assert that the state courts had denied him a "full and fair opportunity" to litigate his search and seizure claim, respondent was barred by Stone v. Powell,428 U. S. 465, from seeking a writ of habeas corpus in a federal district court. Nevertheless, he sought federal court redress for the alleged constitutional violation by bringing a suit for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the officers who had seized the evidence in question. The Federal District Court granted summary judgment for the defendants, holding that collateral estoppel prevented respondent from relitigating the search and seizure question already decided against him in the state courts. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, noting that Stone v. Powell, supra, barred respondent from federal habeas corpus relief, and that the § 1983 suit was, therefore, respondent's only route to a federal forum for his constitutional claim, and directed the trial court to allow him to proceed to trial unencumbered by collateral estoppel.

Held: The Court of Appeals erred in holding that respondent's inability to obtain federal habeas corpus relief upon his Fourth Amendment claim renders the doctrine of collateral estoppel inapplicable to his § 1983 suit. Nothing in the language or legislative history of § 1983 discloses any congressional intent to deny binding effect to a state court judgment or decision when the state court, acting within its proper jurisdiction, has given the parties a full and fair opportunity to litigate federal claims, and thereby has shown itself willing and able to protect federal rights. Nor does anything in § 1983's legislative history reveal any purpose to afford less deference to judgments in state criminal proceedings than to those in state civil proceedings. Pp. 449 U. S. 94-105.

606 F.2d 795, reversed and remanded.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN,

Page 449 U. S. 91

J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post p. 449 U. S. 105.

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