Liability and Immunity

42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates a state or federal cause of action for damages arising out of the acts of state officials that violate an individual’s civil rights while acting under color of state law.

In a compact similar in purpose and scope to the Revised ICJ, a court has held that an interstate compact does not create a federally enforceable right under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for those subject to its provisions absent a clear and unambiguous intent by Congress to establish a federal cause of action.

There are two types of public acts:

Discretionary Acts: acts in which the public employee has the freedom to exercise good judgment and care in carrying out an act

Ministerial Acts: actions required by law to fulfill

Things to remember:

  • Public employees are immune from liability for discretionary acts
  • Conduct cannot violate statute or constitutional rights
  • Public employees are NOT immune from liability involving ministerial acts
  • Parole and probation officers may enjoy qualified immunity if: their actions further statutory duty; are in substantial compliance with the directives of superiors and relevant statutory or regulatory guidelines; and are reasonable.

To determine whether a state official is liable, consider the following:

  • Misconduct
  • Existence of a special custodial or other relationship
  • Foreseeability of a juvenile delinquent's actions
  • Negligent hiring and supervision


ICJ Bench Book: Chapter 6