A Taste of Justice: Can Cities be sued? Yes, but a BIG HOWEVER

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Section 1983 was designed to compensate individuals who are deprived of their constitutional rights and deter the government from violating those rights. Section 1983 provides: Every person, acting under color of law, who deprives another of constitutional rights shall be liable. So, what about cities (and other municipalities like counties, etc.)? If a city is like a state, a city cannot be sued (this is what the Court had held in Monroe v. Pape (1961)). But, the Court changed its view in 1978. The Court said it was wrong back in 1961 when it said cities could not be sued. Cities, and other municipalities CAN be sued under Section 1983. The Court said this makes sense for loss spreading in a city. The Court came with a big HOWEVER! The Court held, however, that there was no respondeat superior liability. This means the city or municipality is not liable every time any employee does something unconstitutional. Something more is required to hold a city or municipality liable. The Court said there would have to be some “line drawing.” This presentation is also about that line drawing.

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