CACI No. 3000. Violation of Federal Civil Rights - In General - Essential Factual Elements (42 U.S.C. § 1983)

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2024 edition)

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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/nonbinary pronoun] civil rights. To establish this claim, [name of
plaintiff] must prove all of the following:
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/nonbinary pronoun] 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 1983.
“42 United States Code section 1983 . . . was enacted ‘to deter state actors from
using the badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally
guaranteed rights and to provide relief to victims if such deterrence fails.’
(Modacure v. B&B Vehicle Processing, Inc. (2018) 30 Cal.App.5th 690, 693 [241
Cal.Rptr.3d 761].)
“A § 1983 claim creates a species of tort liability, with damages determined
‘according to principles derived from the common law of torts.’ (Mendez v.
Cty. of L.A. (9th Cir. 2018) 897 F.3d 1067, 1074.)
“A claim under 42 United States Code section 1983 may be based on a showing
that the defendant, acting under color of state law, deprived the plaintiff of a
federally protected right.” (Modacure, supra, 30 Cal.App.5th at p. 694.)
“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.)
“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 920].)
“[S]tates are not ‘persons’ subject to suit under section 1983.” (Mackey v. Board
of Trustees of California State University (2019) 31 Cal.App.5th 640, 654 [242
Cal.Rptr.3d 757].)
“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.)
“[D]efendants cannot be held liable for a constitutional violation under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 unless they were integral participants in the unlawful conduct. We have
held that defendants can be liable for ‘integral participation’ even if the actions
of each defendant do not ‘rise to the level of a constitutional violation.’
(Keates v. Koile (9th Cir. 2018) 883 F.3d 1228, 1241, internal citation 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. 994-995.)
“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 officers governmental
status or to the performance of his duties.’ (Naffe, supra, 789 F.3d at p. 1037,
internal citations omitted.)
‘While generally not applicable to private parties, a § 1983 action can lie
against a private party when “he is a willful participant in joint action with the
State or its agents.” (Julian v. Mission Community Hospital (2017) 11
Cal.App.5th 360, 396 [218 Cal.Rptr.3d 38].)
“Under this Court’s cases, a private entity can qualify as a state actor in a few
limited circumstances - including, for example, (i) when the private entity
performs a traditional, exclusive public function; (ii) when the government
compels the private entity to take a particular action; or (iii) when the
government acts jointly with the private entity.” (Manhattan Cmty. Access Corp.
v. Halleck (2019) - U.S. - [139 S.Ct. 1921, 1928, 204 L.Ed.2d 405], 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.)
“Under the Court’s cases, a private entity may qualify as a state actor when it
exercises ‘powers traditionally exclusively reserved to the State.’ It is not enough
that the federal, state, or local government exercised the function in the past, or
still does. And it is not enough that the function serves the public good or the
public interest in some way. Rather, to qualify as a traditional, exclusive public
function within the meaning of our state-action precedents, the government must
have traditionally and exclusively performed the function.” (Manhattan Cmty.
Access Corp., supra, - U.S. - [139 S.Ct. at p. 1928], original italics.)
“The Ninth Circuit has articulated four tests for determining whether a private
person acted under color of law: (1) the public function test, (2) the joint action
test, (3) the government nexus test, and (4) the government coercion or
compulsion test. ‘Satisfaction of any one test is sufficient to find state action, so
long as no countervailing factor exists.’ “[N]o one fact can function as a
necessary condition across the board for finding state action; nor is any set of
circumstances absolutely sufficient, for there may be some countervailing reason
against attributing activity to the government.” (Julian, supra, 11 Cal.App.5th
at p. 396.)
“Because § 1983 ‘was designed to secure private rights against government
encroachment,’ tribal members can use it to vindicate their ‘individual rights,’
but not the tribe’s “communal rights.’ (Chemehuevi Indian Tribe v. McMahon
(9th Cir. 2019) 934 F.3d 1076, 1082, internal citations omitted.)
Secondary Sources
8 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Constitutional Law, §§ 888,
892 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

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