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Bench Book - 5.2.1 Liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

One of the primary vehicles through which officials might be sued for their work related to the Compact is 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Section 1983), a federal statute that creates a cause of action for violations of a person’s civil rights. The statute gives a right to sue for “deprivations of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” caused by persons acting under color of law. To succeed on a Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show (1) a deprivation of a federal right and (2) that the person who caused the deprivation acted under color of state law. Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635 (1980).

As discussed below in section 5.3, many officials will enjoy either absolute or qualified immunity to suits under Section 1983.