Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Supreme Court of the United States
November 9, 1982, Argued ; March 7, 1983, Decided
[*326] [***102] [**1110] JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents a question of statutory construction: whether 42 U. S. C. § 1983 (1976 ed., Supp. V) authorizes a convicted person to assert a claim for damages against a police officer for giving [**1111] perjured testimony at his criminal trial. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that witnesses are absolutely immune from damages liability based on their testimony, and rejected the petitioners' contention that government officials who testify about the performance of their official duties may be held liable under § 1983 even if other witnesses may not. We agree with that conclusion.
The Court of Appeals heard argument in three separate cases raising the absolute immunity issue and decided them in a single opinion. Two of these cases are before us on a writ of certiorari. Petitioner Briscoe was convicted in state court of burglarizing a house trailer. He then filed a § 1983 complaint against respondent LaHue, a member [****5] of the Bloomington, Indiana, police force, alleging that LaHue had violated his constitutional right to due process by committing perjury in the criminal proceedings leading to his conviction. 1 [*327] LaHue had testified that in his opinion Briscoe was one of no more than 50 to 100 people in Bloomington whose prints would match a partial thumbprint on a piece of glass found at the scene of the crime. According to Briscoe, the testimony was false because the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the state police considered the partial print too incomplete to be of value, and without the print there was no evidence identifying him as the burglar. He sought $ 100,000 in damages. The District Court granted LaHue's motion for summary judgment on four separate grounds: (1) the facts alleged in the complaint did not suggest that LaHue had testified falsely; (2) allegations of perjury alone are insufficient to state a constitutional claim; (3) LaHue had not testified "under color of law"; and (4) Briscoe's claim was collaterally estopped by his criminal conviction.
[****6] Petitioners Vickers and Ballard were jointly tried and convicted of sexual assault in state court. They subsequently brought a civil action under § 1983 against respondent Hunley, a member of the Cedar Lake, Indiana, police force, alleging that he had deprived them of their constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. They alleged that, by giving false testimony suggesting [***103] that they had been able to harmonize their stories before making exculpatory statements to police, he had prejudicially diminished the credibility of those statements. Each plaintiff sought $ 150,000 in compensatory and $ 50,000 in punitive damages. The Federal Magistrate granted a motion to dismiss the complaint on alternative grounds: (1) Hunley had not testified "under color of law"; (2) he was entitled to absolute witness immunity; and (3) petitioners had failed to state a claim under § 1983 because they did not allege that the prosecutor had knowingly used false testimony. The District Court affirmed the dismissal on the first ground. Both cases were appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. 2
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
460 U.S. 325 *; 103 S. Ct. 1108 **; 75 L. Ed. 2d 96 ***; 1983 U.S. LEXIS 146 ****; 51 U.S.L.W. 4247
BRISCOE ET AL. v. LaHUE ET AL.
Prior History: [****1] CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT.
Disposition: 663 F.2d 713, affirmed.
immunity, witnesses, absolute immunity, police officer, perjury, common-law, damages, judicial proceedings, civil rights, judicial process, common law, cases, witness immunity, deprivation, principles, rights, convictions, debates, legislative history, color of law, malice, government official, civil remedy, provisions, abrogate, lawsuits, suits, constitutional right, state law, testifying
Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Section 1983 Actions, Scope, Immunity From Liability, Local Officials, Customs & Policies, Governments, Legislation, Statutory Remedies & Rights, Elements, Protected Classes, Scope, Law Enforcement Officials, General Overview, Torts, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, Judicial Immunity, Criminal Law & Procedure, Trials, Witnesses, Presentation