Lawyers Looking to State Courts to Litigate Federal Sec. 1983 Cases

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National Law Journal


Section 1983 litigation, civil rights law


As the Supreme Court becomes less willing to construe federal law to protect individual rights, litigants have been turning to state law and state courts as alternative sources of judicial protection. This has resulted in an explosion of interest in state law, especially state constitutional law, and a leading member of the state judiciary has characterized the 1980s as the decade of the state courts. Less attention, however, has been focused on the role of state courts in enforcing federal law. Although the Burger Court often has reaffirmed the obligation of state courts to decide federal issues and expressed confidence in the ability of the state judiciary to do so, the court often has used this deference to justify decisions limiting access to federal courts. Thus, many litigants assert federal claims in state courts because they have no alternative. But a growing number for whom federal courts are still open are choosing to file federal actions in state courts.

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