California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017)

3000. Violation of Federal Civil Rights (42 U.S.C. § 1983) In General - Essential Factual Elements

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3000.Violation of Federal Civil Rights—In General—Essential
Factual Elements (42 U.S.C. § 1983)
[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] violated [his/her] civil
rights. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the
1. That [name of defendant] [intentionally/[other applicable state of
mind]] [insert wrongful act];
2. That [name of defendant] was acting or purporting to act in the
performance of [his/her] official duties;
3. That [name of defendant]’s conduct violated [name of plaintiff]’s
right [insert right, e.g., “of privacy”];
4. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and
5. That [name of defendant]’s [insert wrongful act] was a substantial
factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.
New September 2003
Directions for Use
In element 1, the standard is not always based on intentional conduct. Insert the
appropriate level of scienter. For example, Eighth Amendment cases involve
conduct carried out with “deliberate indifference,” and Fourth Amendment claims
do not necessarily involve intentional conduct. The “official duties” referred to in
element 2 must be duties created pursuant to any state, county, or municipal law,
ordinance, or regulation. This aspect of color of law most likely will not be a jury
issue, so it has been omitted to shorten the wording of element 2. This instruction
is intended for claims not covered by any of the following more specific
instructions regarding the elements that the plaintiff must prove.
Sources and Authority
• Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights. Title 42 United States Code section
“As we have said many times, § 1983 ‘is not itself a source of substantive
rights,’ but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere
conferred.’ ” (Graham v. Connor (1989) 490 U.S. 386, 393–394 [109 S.Ct.
1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443], internal citation omitted.)
• “42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates a cause of action against a person who, acting under
color of state law, deprives another of rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
Section 1983 does not create any substantive rights; rather it is the vehicle
whereby plaintiffs can challenge actions by governmental officials.” (Jones v.
Williams (9th Cir. 2002) 297 F.3d 930, 934.)
• “By the plain terms of § 1983, two—and only two—allegations are required in
order to state a cause of action under that statute. First, the plaintiff must allege
that some person has deprived him of a federal right. Second, he must allege
that the person who has deprived him of that right acted under color of state or
territorial law.” (Catsouras v. Department of California Highway Patrol (2010)
181 Cal.App.4th 856, 890 [104 Cal.Rptr.3d 352].)
• “Section 1983 can also be used to enforce federal statutes. For a statutory
provision to be privately enforceable, however, it must create an individual
right.” (Henry A. v. Willden (9th Cir. 2012) 678 F.3d 991, 1005, internal citation
• “Section 1983 claims may be brought in either state or federal court.” (Pitts v.
County of Kern (1998) 17 Cal.4th 340, 348 [70 Cal.Rptr.2d 823, 949 P.2d
• “The jury was properly instructed on [plaintiff]’s burden of proof and the
particular elements of the section 1983 claim. (CACI No. 3000.)” (King v. State
of California (2015) 242 Cal.App.4th 265, 280 [195 Cal.Rptr.3d 286].)
• “ ‘State courts look to federal law to determine what conduct will support an
action under section 1983. The first inquiry in any section 1983 suit is to
identify the precise constitutional violation with which the defendant is
charged.’ ” (Weaver v. State of California (1998) 63 Cal.App.4th 188, 203 [73
Cal.Rptr.2d 571], internal citations omitted.)
• “ ‘Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense against section 1983 claims. Its
purpose is to shield public officials “from undue interference with their duties
and from potentially disabling threats of liability.” The defense provides
immunity from suit, not merely from liability. Its purpose is to spare defendants
the burden of going forward with trial.’ Because it is an immunity from suit,
not just a mere defense to liability, it is important to resolve immunity questions
at the earliest possible stage in litigation. Immunity should ordinarily be
resolved by the court, not a jury.” (Martinez v. County of Los Angeles (1996) 47
Cal.App.4th 334, 342 [54 Cal.Rptr.2d 772], internal citations omitted.)
• “Constitutional torts employ the same measure of damages as common law torts
and are not augmented ‘based on the abstract “value” or “importance” of
constitutional rights . . . .’ Plaintiffs have the burden of proving compensatory
damages in section 1983 cases, and the amount of damages depends ‘largely
upon the credibility of the plaintiffs’ testimony concerning their injuries.’ ”
(Choate v. County of Orange (2000) 86 Cal.App.4th 312, 321 [103 Cal.Rptr.2d
339], internal citations omitted.)
• “[E]ntitlement to compensatory damages in a civil rights action is not a matter
of discretion: ‘Compensatory damages . . . are mandatory; once liability is
found, the jury is required to award compensatory damages in an amount
appropriate to compensate the plaintiff for his loss.’ ” (Hazle v. Crofoot (9th Cir.
2013) 727 F.3d 983, 992.)
• “[T]he state defendants’ explanation of the jury’s zero-damages award as
allocating all of [plaintiff]’s injury to absent persons reflects the erroneous view
that not only could zero damages be awarded to [plaintiff], but that [plaintiff]’s
damages were capable of apportionment. [Plaintiff] independently challenges the
jury instruction and verdict form that allowed the jury to decide this question,
contending that the district judge should have concluded, as a matter of law,
that [plaintiff] was entitled to compensatory damages and that defendants were
jointly and severally liable for his injuries. He is correct. The district judge
erred in putting the question of apportionment to the jury in the first place,
because the question of whether an injury is capable of apportionment is a legal
one to be decided by the judge, not the jury.” (Hazle, supra, 727 F.3d at pp.
• “An individual acts under color of state law when he or she exercises power
‘possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer
is clothed with the authority of state law.’ ” (Naffe v. Frey (9th Cir. 2015) 789
F.3d 1030, 1036.)
• “The Supreme Court has interpreted the phrase ‘under “color” of law’ to mean
‘under “pretense” of law.’ A police officer’s actions are under pretense of law
only if they are ‘in some way “related to the performance of his official
duties.’ ” By contrast, an officer who is ‘ “pursuing his own goals and is not in
any way subject to control by [his public employer],’ ” does not act under color
of law, unless he ‘purports or pretends’ to do so. Officers who engage in
confrontations for personal reasons unrelated to law enforcement, and do not
‘purport[] or pretend[]’ to be officers, do not act under color of law.” (Huffman
v. County of Los Angeles (9th Cir. 1998) 147 F.3d 1054, 1058, internal citations
• “A state employee who is off duty nevertheless acts under color of state law
when (1) the employee ‘purport[s] to or pretend[s] to act under color of law,’
(2) his ‘pretense of acting in the performance of his duties . . . had the purpose
and effect of influencing the behavior of others,’ and (3) the harm inflicted on
plaintiff ‘related in some meaningful way either to the officer’s governmental
status or to the performance of his duties,’ ” (Naffe, supra, 789 F.3d at p. 1037,
internal citations omitted.)
• “[P]rivate parties ordinarily are not subject to suit under section 1983, unless,
sifting the circumstances of the particular case, the state has so significantly
involved itself in the private conduct that the private parties may fairly be
termed state actors. Among the factors considered are whether the state
subsidized or heavily regulated the conduct, or compelled or encouraged the
particular conduct, whether the private actor was performing a function which
normally is performed exclusively by the state, and whether there was a
symbiotic relationship rendering the conduct joint state action.” (Robbins v.
Hamburger Home for Girls (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 671, 683 [38 Cal.Rptr.2d
534], internal citations omitted.)
• “Private parties act under color of state law if they willfully participate in joint
action with state officials to deprive others of constitutional rights. Private
parties involved in such a conspiracy may be liable under section 1983.”
(United Steelworkers of America v. Phelps Dodge Corp. (9th Cir. 1989) 865
F.2d 1539, 1540, internal citations omitted.)
Secondary Sources
8 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Constitutional Law, §§ 816,
819 et seq.
2 Civil Rights Actions, Ch. 7, Deprivation of Rights Under Color of State
Law—General Principles (Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983),
¶¶ 7.05–7.07, Ch. 17, Deprivation of Rights Under Color of State Law—General
Principles (Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983), ¶ 17.02 (Matthew Bender)
11 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 113, Civil Rights: The Post-Civil
War Civil Rights Statutes, § 113.14 (Matthew Bender)
1 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: Federal Pretrial Civil Procedure in California,
Ch. 8, Answers and Responsive Motions Under Rule 12, 8.40