New Act May Broaden the Scope of Claims Involving Sec. 1983

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

National Law Journal


Judicial Improvements Act of 1990, Section 1983 litigation, pendent jurisdiction


The adoption by Congress of the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990 not only authorizes pendent party jurisdiction in federal question cases but also provides a statutory foundation for pendent claim jurisdiction. In codifying pendent jurisdiction, Congress adopted standards that limit the broad discretion of federal district courts to dismiss pendent claims. Among other things, the new legislation which applies to civil actions commenced on or after Dec. 1, 1990, and is codified at 28 U.S.C. 1367 will have a significant impact on the litigation of Sec. 1983 claims in federal courts. Sec. 1983 authorizes a civil cause of action against defendants who act under color of state law and violate rights secured by the U.S. Constitution or by certain federal statutes. Pendent state law claims the civil equivalent to lesser included criminal offenses are generally important to plaintiffs in Sec. 1983 damage litigation. Before the enactment of the Judicial Improvements Act, however, federal district courts had often been reluctant to exercise pendent jurisdiction. The doctrine of pendent jurisdiction governs when federal courts may entertain state law claims that lack an independent basis of subject matter jurisdiction. Under the modern test adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, federal courts must first determine whether they have the constitutional power to exercise pendent jurisdiction. This power exists when there is a substantial federal claim over which federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction and both state and federal claims ...derive from a common nucleus of operative facts so that a plaintiff would ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial proceeding.

This document is currently not available here.