42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 does not itself confer the right to a jury trial. § 1983 authorizes a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief through "an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress." There is no statutory jury right under § 1983 based solely on the authorization of "an action at law."
In a suit under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983, a jury verdict for respondent developer alleging unlawful deprivation of property was upheld, because the reasonableness of petitioner city's rejection of a development plan was primarily a factual issue to be resolved by the jury. Respondent made repeated attempts to obtain petitioner's approval of site plans for beachfront property but was unable to obtain approval. Respondent brought suit under § 1983, alleging that it had been denied all economically viable use of the property without compensation and that the decision to reject the development proposal did not substantially advance a legitimate public purpose. The jury found for respondent, and the appellate court affirmed the judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed.
Was the appellate court correct in holding that the issue of reasonableness was properly submitted to the jury?
The question of whether deprivation of use of property advanced legitimate public interests was an issue involving factual considerations normally resolved by juries. Because § 1983 did not in itself confer a right to jury trial, the court applied a U.S. Const. amend. VII analysis. A lawsuit under § 1983 was a tort action to which the right of jury trial applied.