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Civil Rights Litigation

  • Typically offered every other year

NOTE: Although currently listed on the three year plan, it is possible that this course will not be taught in 2018-2019.

NOTE: This course description is new for the 2017-2018 academic year. You may read the prior course description immediately below the new one. 


Civil Rights Litigation explores federal causes of action that allow individuals to seek remedies for violations of federal rights by government actors (state or federal). The primary focus of the course is on the doctrines associated with 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which creates a cause of action against state actors who cause injuries through violations of “the Constitution and laws.” We will also discuss the Ex parte Young and Bivens doctrines, which are judge-made civil rights causes of action. Along the way, we will discuss substantive claims, immunity defenses, and the relationship between § 1983 and federal habeas corpus (which is another form of civil rights litigation).

In addition to the readings, we will work through fact patterns that require students to apply the doctrines that we are studying.

The grade will be based on two drafting exercises (a complaint and a motion to dismiss the complaint) as well as a final examination.

NOTE: The below course description applied prior to the 2017-2018 academic year.

Civil Rights Litigation examines causes of action that allow injured parties to sue government actors for violations of constitutional rights.  The primary focus is 42 U.S.C.1983, but the course also considers related statutes, causes of action derived directly from the Constitution, basic aspects of federal habeas corpus, and some international law.  Important themes and topics include federalism, sovereign immunity, individual immunities, municipal liability, the scope of the civil rights cause of action, and remedies (including the remedies associated with institutional reform litigation). The grade will be based on a final examination, with an optional paper.  This course typically is offered every other year.