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Section 1983 Liability for Municipalities: Recent SCOTUS and COA Decisions

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Thursday, July 11, 2019

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will discuss the elements of municipal liability under Section 1983 and the difference between individual, supervisory and municipal liability, including the definition of a "person" and "acting under color of state law." The program will discuss the latest cases, trends and strategies impacting 1983 litigation, and best practices for defending municipalities in these claims.


Section 1983 provides a mechanism for individuals alleging a violation of their constitutional rights to seek a remedy against employees or agents of a state or municipality. Although government entities are generally not liable for actions of its employees under Section 1983, plaintiffs can pursue Monell claims by identifying a governmental policy or custom that caused the plaintiff’s injury.

Section 1983 liability is an ever-shifting landscape in part because the phrase "deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" cries out for judicial interpretation. In the past two years, the Supreme Court and various federal circuit courts have defined new ways that Section 1983 does, and does not, offer redress for government actions.

This webinar will address the 2018 Supreme Court decision in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, which saw a balancing of the right to petition and probable cause for arrest. Other rulings highlighted--though this list is hardly exclusive--will include the Sixth Circuit's recent analysis of qualified immunity in an excessive force action (Smith v. City of Troy); the D.C. Circuit's 2018 discussion of deliberate indifference in the failure-to-train context (Lane v. District of Columbia); and the Fourth Circuit's analysis of Section 1983 in the context of an alleged retaliatory termination.

Listen as our panel of Section 1983 trial lawyers offers their perspectives on how these cases impact pending and future litigation and how to use these developments to protect against claims.



  1. Element of claims
    1. Defendant acting in an individual or official capacity?
    2. Qualified immunity
    3. Statute of limitations
    4. Defenses
    5. Proof requirements
    6. Causation
    7. State of mind
  2. Latest cases and trends in Section 1983 litigation
  3. Liability of municipalities outside of individual liability


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • How have courts interpreted the definition of a "person" and "acting under color of state law"?
  • What must a plaintiff allege to pursue a Monell claim under Section 1983?
  • Under what circumstances can a municipality be held liable for a Section 1983 violation in the absence of a finding of liability against the individual defendant?
  • The impact of recent appellate level decisions on planning and litigation


Hall, Samuel
Samuel C. Hall, Jr.

Crivello, Nichols & Hall

Mr. Hall's principal practice focuses on civil rights litigation and appellate practice. He has...  |  Read More

Mills, Sara
Sara C. Mills-Flood

Crivello Nichols & Hall

Ms. Mills represents her clients in state, federal and administrative forums focusing on civil defense litigation and...  |  Read More

Stowers, Rhonda
Rhonda R. Stowers

Senior Attorney
Plunkett Cooney

Ms. Stowers has an extensive litigation practice that includes general liability, governmental law, commercial...  |  Read More

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