Constitutional Litigation

Course Number: 579X

Description: This course provides a rigorous examination of the intricacies initiated by individuals seeking to vindicate federal constitutional rights. Primary emphasis will be placed on suits under 42 U.S.C §1983 against state and local governmental entities and their officials. Through a careful study of the many doctrines that the U.S. Supreme Court has pronounced and developed in connection with litigation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens, students will gain a significant understanding of and appreciation for the challenges that confront a constitutional claimant both in establishing liability and in obtaining a remedy. In particular, the course will focus on the essential elements of a § 1983 action, such as the requirement that the defendant have acted “under color of” state or local law, as well as the need to demonstrate that the constitutional violation at issue flowed from an official policy or custom in cases where the defendant is a municipality. There will also be substantial treatment of the various defenses that officials sued in their individual capacity may assert, including absolute immunity (available to those who perform legislative, judicial, and prosecutorial functions), qualified immunity, and res judicata. In addition, the availability of remedies such as damages, injunctive relief, and attorney fees will be explored.