Garland's Digest
on employment discrimination law
online since 1997
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Chapter 17 - 42 U.S.C. 1983
17.100 42 U.S.C. 1983 - General principles

17.140 Difference between "individual capacity" and "official capacity"

6th Circuit

Moore v. City of Harriman, 272 F.3d 769 (6th Cir. 2001) (en banc) is not an employment discrimination case. However, in this 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, the court does address how the determination is made whether a state actor has been sued in his individual capacity. This is a 7-6 decision. The majority holds that the determination is based on the "course of proceedings" test. The "course of proceedings" test considers such factors as the nature of the plaintiff's claims, requests for compensatory or punitive damages, and the nature of any defenses raised in response to the complaint, particularly claims of qualified immunity to determine whether the defendant had actual knowledge of the potential for individual liability. The test also considers whether subsequent pleadings put the defendant on notice of the capacity in which he or she is sued. The majority opinion states that most circuits follow the course of proceedings test, and the court lists decisions from the other circuits. Circuit Judge Gilman concurs in the result. While he agrees that the course of proceedings test should apply, Judge Gilman is critical of the majority for pretending that the Sixth Circuit has applied this test all along. The six-member dissent argues that the Sixth Circuit has never applied the course of proceedings test, but acknowledges that the Court has the power to adopt the test in this en banc decision. Even applying the course of proceedings test, the dissent does not believe that the officers in this case were sued in their individual capacity.




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