Suits Against State Officials
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.
Courts may open their doors for relief against government wrongs under the doctrine that sovereign immunity does not prevent a suit to restrain individual officials, thereby restraining the government as well.113 The doctrine is built upon a double fiction: that for purposes of the sovereigns immunity, a suit against an official is not a suit against the government, but for the purpose of finding state action to which the Constitution applies, the officials conduct is that of the state.114 The doctrine preceded but is most noteworthily associated with the decision in Ex parte Young,115 a case that deserves the overworked adjective, seminal.
Addressing a suit by an independent state agency against state health officials, the Court, quoting Pennhurst, reiterated that the general criterion for determining when a suit is in fact against the sovereign is the effect of the relief sought.160
The agency sought access to records of state-run hospitals in federal court. Six Justices upheld the effort: The relief sought was straightforward and prospective, and not a burdensome encroachment on state sovereignty.161
114 C. Wright, The Law Of Federal Courts § 48 .
115 209 U.S. 123 .
117 Osborn v. Bank of the United States, 22 U.S. 738 .
The Lack Of Accountability For Federal Actors
While Section 1983 created a statutory cause of action for damages against individuals who violate a persons constitutional rights while acting under color of state law, there is no parallel statutory provision that generally extends a cause of action against individuals who commit similar abuses while acting under color of federal law. Such a cause of action was only recognized by the Supreme Court in the 1971 case Bivensv. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
Bivens arose out of a search and arrest conducted by federal agents that allegedly violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.17 In the years following Bivens, the court similarly recognized causes of action for damages pertaining to two additional amendments. In the 1979 case Davis v. Passman, the court recognized a cause of action within the Fifth Amendments due process clause in the context of sex discrimination.18 A year later, in the 1980 case Carlson v. Green, the court recognized a cause of action within the Eighth Amendments ban on cruel and unusual punishment in the context of constitutionally deficient medical care provided to a federal prisoner in a federal prison.19
Foreign Sovereign Immunity In State And Federal Courts
The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 establishes the limitations as to whether a foreign sovereign nation may be sued in U.S. courtsfederal or state. It also establishes specific procedures for service of process and attachment of property for proceedings against a Foreign State. The FSIA provides the exclusive basis and means to bring a lawsuit against a foreign sovereign in the United States. In international law, the prohibition against suing a foreign government is known as state immunity.
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If your constitutional rights have been violated by a city or county employee or government body, consult an aggressive . Call JOEY JACKSON LAW, PLLC at 833-JOEYJACKSON or 833-563-9522.
Can A Federal Employee Sue The Federal Government
Sovereign immunity has carried over to modern times in the form of a general rule that you cannot sue the government unless the government says you can. Fortunately, the Federal Tort Claims Act allows certain kinds of lawsuits against federal employees who are acting within the scope of their employment.
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Can You Sue The Government For Violating The Constitution
When an officer employed by a state or local government violates someone’s rights through, for example, excessive use of force, the person can sue the officer in federal court. … After Bivens, the Supreme Court ruled in two other cases that people aggrieved by federal officers could sue for constitutional violations.
How To Sue The Federal Government
This article was written by Jennifer Mueller, JD. Jennifer Mueller is an in-house legal expert at wikiHow. Jennifer reviews, fact-checks, and evaluates wikiHow’s legal content to ensure thoroughness and accuracy. She received her JD from Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 2006.There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 46,319 times.
Typically, you can’t sue the federal government. However, the Federal Tort Claims Act provides a limited right for private citizens to file a lawsuit in federal court against a federal government agency for negligence or personal injury claims. You may have a lawsuit under the FTCA if, for example, you were hit by a postal service truck while crossing the street, or you slipped and fell in a Social Security office. A lawsuit under the FTCA is more complicated than a basic personal injury lawsuit against another individual or a private business, and you must first exhaust administrative remedies before you have the right to sue the federal government.XResearch source
Is My Claim Permitted By The Ftca
In general, the FTCA is intended to provide monetary compensation for injury, property loss, or death “caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government.” But this broad-sounding mandate is subject to a lot of fine print.
Although the limitations and exceptions are too numerous to review in this article, here are some general guidelines regarding the limitations on FTCA claims:
- Only federal employees can be sued under the FTCA, not independent contractors hired by the federal government .
- The negligent or wrongful conduct must have been done within the scope of the defendant’s employment.
- In general, only claims of negligence — as opposed to intentional misconduct — are allowed .
- The claim must be based on — and permitted by — the law of the state in which the misconduct occurred.
Despite these and numerous other limitations on FTCA lawsuits, the federal government still pays out millions of dollars each year to compensate FTCA claims. So if you think you may have a valid claim, it may be worth pursuing.
If you determine that you do have a valid FTCA claim, the next hurdle is to follow the prescribed steps for such claims, which include some strict time limits.
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If A Police Officer Or Other Government Official Violates Your Constitutional Rights A Section 1983 Lawsuit May Allow You To Recover Damages
Individuals whose constitutional and other federal rights have been violated by federal and state government officers may bring a Section 1983 lawsuit or Bivens claim against those officers to recover damages. A Section 1983 lawsuit is the right way to sue an official who works for a state or local government, and a Bivens claim is the way someone can pursue a federal official when that official has violated the persons constitutional rights.
Both Section 1983 and Bivens claims allow you to recover from the government for any damages resulting from the violation of your rights, including physical, mental, and emotional injuries. You can also seek punitive damages and attorneys fees in certain cases.
And while they serve similar functions, namely deterring unconstitutional government actions, there are important differences between Section 1983 claims and Bivens claims:
Actions Taken In Bad Faith
If a plaintiff can demonstrate that the government’s action was done in bad faith, the plaintiff can receive damages despite sovereign immunity. Typically if a party can demonstrate that the government intentionally acted wrongly with the sole purpose of causing damages, that party can recover for injury or economic losses. For example, if access lanes to a major bridge are closed for repair and the closure results in severe traffic congestion, the action was in good faith and the state could not be sued. However, if, as in the Fort Lee lane closure scandal, the lanes were closed in retaliation against a mayor who declined to support a politician’s campaign, with the explicit purpose of causing traffic jams, such lawsuits could proceed.
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Do Not Delay Contact Our Firm Today To Sue A Government Agency
The government will have their own lawyers on their side make sure you have an experienced lawyer on yours if you plan on suing a government agency.
It is important that you contact our government injury attorney or government property damage attorney as soon as possible in order to protect your legal rights. Your initial consultation is free of charge, and you pay no legal fees unless we recover for you. We have flexible appointments, including evening, weekend, home, and hospital visits.
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Suits As To Which Congress Has Abrogated The States’ Eleventh Amendment Immunity
The federal government and nearly every state have passed tort claims acts allowing them to be sued for the negligence, but not intentional wrongs, of government employees. The common-law tort doctrine of respondeat superior makes employers generally responsible for the torts of their employees. In the absence of this waiver of sovereign immunity, injured parties would generally have been left without an effective remedy. See Brandon v. Holt.
Under the abrogation doctrine, while Congress cannot use its Article I powers to subject states to lawsuits in either federal courts, Seminole Tribe v. Florida, or a fortiori its own courts, Alden, supra, it can abrogate a state’s sovereign immunity pursuant to the powers granted to it by §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and thus subject them to lawsuits. Seminole, supra Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer. However:
The Court in Central Virginia Community College v. Katz added this caveat: “We do not mean to suggest that every law labeled a ‘bankruptcy’ law could, consistent with the Bankruptcy Clause, properly impinge upon state sovereign immunity”.
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The Lack Of Accountability For State Actors
Section 1983 was passed as part of the reconstruction-era Civil Rights Act of 1871 in recognition of the terror that state officials were waging on Black Americans in concert with the Ku Klux Klan.2 It established the right of individuals to sue government officials who violate constitutional rights while acting under color of state or local law. Beginning in the late 1960s,3 with the defining interpretation set in the 1982 case Harlow v. Fitzgerald,4 the qualified immunity doctrine was created by the Supreme Court and imposed on Section 1983 based on reasoning that has been criticized by legal experts on both the right and left as a creation of the court without strong legal or historic basis.5 And as the doctrine evolved, it became clear that it provided a shield against accountability even in cases of shocking civil rights violations.
This jurisprudence has led to extreme violations of rights going unpunished. Qualified immunity has protected officers who set a police dog on a man who had surrendered and was sitting on the ground with his hands up and has let officers who stole $225,000 from a bedroom when executing a search warrant escape legal punishment.12 The doctrine also protected officers who debated how to tase a womanseven months pregnant and in the process of driving her 11-year-old son to schoolwho they had pulled over for speeding before repeatedly attacking her and dragging her to the ground.13
The State Action Doctrine For Federal Constitutional Claims
The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, as a general rule, only regulates and restricts government action. It does not cover private individuals, organizations, or businesses. This means that a person can only bring a claim for a violation of their constitutional rights against a state actor. Much of the time, the State Action Doctrine for federal constitutional claims offers clear guidelines as to who may be a defendant in a case alleging constitutional rights violations. Many exceptions exist, however, thanks to years of decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. A private individual or business could become a state actor in certain circumstances, or the state could be held jointly liable for actions by a private individual or business.
What Is State Action?
The State Action Doctrine seems simple on its face. The provisions of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments apply to the government and those acting on its behalf, but not to private individuals or entities.
Restrictions on the Federal GovernmentRestrictions on State and Local GovernmentsWhen Does the State Action Doctrine Allow Lawsuits Based on Constitutional Claims?
The Supreme Court has also recognized a right to sue federal government actors for constitutional violations, even without a specific statute authorizing a lawsuit, in Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 . That case involved alleged violations of the Fourth Amendments prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.
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The Federal Tort Claims Act
Historically, under the doctrine of “sovereign immunity,” you were not permitted to sue the king. Sovereign immunity has carried over to modern times in the form of a general rule that you cannot sue the government — unless the government says you can. Fortunately, the Federal Tort Claims Act allows certain kinds of lawsuits against federal employees who are acting within the scope of their employment.
If you believe you may have a claim for negligence against a federal agency or employee, you must first determine whether you can sue the federal government under the FTCA. Unless your claim is allowed by the FTCA, there is a good chance it will be barred by sovereign immunity.
Note on State Government Liability for Injury: State governments are entitled to the same sovereign immunity that is enjoyed by the federal government, but every state has also passed its own set of laws in which the state has conditionally waived that immunity. And in certain situations where the negligent action of a government employee or agency has resulted in personal injury or property damage, citizens may be able to make a claim for damages. To learn about the rules in your state when it comes to filing an injury claim against the government, check out our Injury Claims Against Your State articles collection.
Suits Brought By Another State
Similar to the U.S. v. state exclusion above, a state may also sue another state in the federal court system. Again, there would be a conflict of interest if either state’s court system tried the case. Instead, the federal court system provides a neutral forum for the case.
Under Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court of the United States has original jurisdiction over cases between states. Congress, if it so chooses, may grant lower federal courts concurrent jurisdiction over cases between states. However, Congress has not yet chosen to do so. Thus, the United States Supreme Court currently has original and exclusive jurisdiction over cases between state governments.
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Is There A Statute Of Limitations
There is a statute of limitations for Section 1983 claims. This means the civil action must be filed within a certain time frame. However, that length of time depends on the type of constitutional violation.
Courts have to apply the statute of limitations that is most similar to the violation.29 This is often a personal injury statute of limitations, which tends to be 3 years. However, some 1983 cases can have different time constraints.
Contact our law firm for help. Our civil law attorneys also practice criminal law and torts.
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