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[Plaintiff]1` is suing under Section 1983, a civil rights law passed by Congress that provides a remedy to persons who have been deprived of their federal [constitutional] [statutory] rights under color of state law.2
COMMENT The instructions in this Chapter address Section 1983 claims other than employment claims; as to employment claims, see Chapter Seven. These instructions address the elements of Section 1983 claims generally3 and of a few pertinent defenses.4 After covering topics concerning damages,5 the instructions also address the elements of particular types of constitutional violations that might give rise to a Section 1983 claim.6 The instructions also address a few related topics such as burdens of proof.7 The instructions generally do not focus on procedural matters that would not affect how the jury is instructed.8
(Last Updated July 2019)
1 Referring to the parties by their names, rather than solely as “Plaintiff” and “Defendant,” can improve jurors’ comprehension. In these instructions, bracketed references to “[plaintiff]” or “[defendant]” indicate places where the name of the party should be inserted.
2 In these instructions, references to action under color of state law are meant to include action under color of territorial law. See, e.g., Eddy v. Virgin Islands Water & Power Auth., 955 F. Supp. 468, 476 (D.V.I. 1997) (“The net effect of the Supreme Court decisions interpreting 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including Will [v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989),] and Ngiraingas [v. Sanchez, 495 U.S. 182 (1990)], is to treat the territories and their officials and employees the same as states and their officials and employees.”), reconsidered on other grounds, 961 F. Supp. 113 (D.V.I. 1997); see also Iles v. de Jongh, 638 F.3d 169, 177-78 (3d Cir. 2011) (analyzing official-capacity claims against Governor of Virgin Islands under, inter alia, Will).
3 See Instructions 4.3 through 4.6.8.
4 See Instructions 4.7.1 and 4.7.3; see also Comment 4.7.2.
5 See Instructions 4.8.1 through 4.8.3.
6 See Instructions 4.9 through 4.16.
7 See Instruction 4.13.1; see also Comment 4.2.
8 Exhaustion of remedies doctrine provides one example. In general, there is no requirement that a Section 1983 plaintiff exhaust state-law remedies or state administrative processes before suing under Section 1983. See Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 183 (1961) (“The federal remedy is supplementary to the state remedy, and the latter need not be first sought and refused before the federal one is invoked.”), overruled on other grounds by Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Patsy v. Bd. of Regents, 457 U.S. 496, 516 (1982) (“[E]xhaustion of state administrative remedies should not be required as a prerequisite to bringing an action pursuant to § 1983.”). Exhaustion requirements do apply to prisoner claims regarding prison conditions under Section 1983 and other federal laws. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, or PLRA, stating that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted”). But the Court of Appeals has made clear that PLRA exhaustion presents a question that can be resolved by the judge. See Small v. Camden Cty., 728 F.3d 265, 269, 271 (3d Cir. 2013); see also Paladino v. Newsome, 885 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2018) (setting procedures to govern district-court fact-finding on question of PLRA exhaustion).