Kevin E. Irwin


In 1971 the United States Supreme Court held in Griffin v. Breckenridge that 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) could be used against private citizens who conspired to deprive others of their civil rights. The Supreme Court found that Congress had originally intended for the statute to reach the actions of private citizens, and that Congress had the authority to reach such activity under the thirteenth amendment and the constitutionally protected right to travel. In so holding, however, the Court offered no indication of how future claims arising under the statute would be adjudicated in fact situations unlike the unique one encountered in Griffin v. Breckenridge. Since the Supreme Court has not chosen to hear a section 1985(3) case since Griffin, it has been up to the lower federal courts to fashion answers to the many significant questions concerning the operation of the statute left unanswered by the Court. Some of these unanswered questions go to the heart of the statute, for example: Who can conspire in a civil conspiracy? What is the requisite intent for a section 1985(3) action? Does Congress have the power under section 1985(3) to reach private conspiracies unlike the racially motivated one encountered in Griffin v. Breckenridge? This Note will examine how the federal courts have answered the questions left unresolved by the Supreme Court in Griffin, with particular emphasis being given to the three prominent questions mentioned above. It is hoped that by examining the boundaries of the statute, as demarcated by the holdings of the federal courts, an effective statement can be made concerning the potential reach of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).