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Section (1983)

Jurisdiction

Federal courts are authorized to hear cases brought under section 1983 pursuant to two statutory provisions: 28 U.S.C.A. § 1343(3) (1948) and 28 U.S.C.A. § 1331 (1948). The former statute permits federal district courts to hear cases involving the deprivation of civil rights, and the latter statute permits federal courts to hear all cases involving a federal question or issue. Cases brought under section 1983 may therefore be heard in federal courts by application of both jurisdictional statutes.

State courts may also properly hear section 1983 cases pursuant to the SUPREMACY CLAUSE of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. The Supremacy Clause mandates that states must provide hospitable forums for federal claims and the vindication of federal rights. This point was solidified in the Supreme Court decision of Felder v. Casey, 487 U.S. 131, 108 S. Ct. 2302, 101 L. Ed. 2d 123 (1988). The Felder case involved an individual who was arrested in Wisconsin and later brought suit in state court against the police officers and city for violations of his federal rights. The state court dismissed the claim because the plaintiff failed to properly comply with a state procedural law. But the Supreme Court overturned the state decision, holding that the Wisconsin statute could not bar the individual's federal claim.

To bring an action under section 1983, the plaintiff does not have to begin in state court. However, if the plaintiff chooses to bring suit in state court, the defendant has the right to remove the case to federal court.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Secretary to SHAsSection (1983) - Jurisdiction, Elements Of A Section 1983 Claim, Absolute And Qualified Immunities, Remedies, Bars To Relief