MOOR V. COUNTY OF ALAMEDA, 411 U. S. 693 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Moor v. County of Alameda, 411 U.S. 693 (1973)

Moor v. County of Alameda

No. 72-10

Argued February 27, 1973

Decided May 14, 1973

411 U.S. 693


Petitioners Moor and Rundle brought damages actions in the District Court against respondents, several law enforcement officers and Alameda County. Against the County they alleged federal causes of action under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, and pendent state claims under the state tort claims statute, the federal, as well as the state, causes of action being grounded on the theory that the County was vicariously liable under state law for the officers' acts. Both petitioners alleged federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343 and Moor, additionally, on diversity grounds. The County moved to dismiss in each case, contending that, as to the Civil Rights Act claims, it was not a suable "person" under Monroe v. Pape, 365 U. S. 167; that, absent a claim against it as to which there exists an independent basis of federal jurisdiction, application of the pendent jurisdiction doctrine with respect to the state law claims would be inappropriate; and that, in Moor's suit, it was not a "citizen" for federal diversity purposes. The District Court granted the motions to dismiss, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. Section 1988, as is clear from its legislative history, does not independently create a federal cause of action for the violation of federal civil rights, and to apply that provision here by imposing vicarious liability upon the County would contravene the holding in Monroe v. Pape, supra, and Congress' intent to exclude a State's political subdivision from civil liability under § 1983. Pp. 411 U. S. 698-710.

2. Even assuming, arguendo, that the District Court had judicial power to exercise pendent jurisdiction over petitioners' state law claims which would require that the County be brought in as a new party defendant, against which petitioners could not state a federally cognizable claim, in addition to the individual defendants against whom they could assert such a claim, the court did not abuse its discretion in not exercising that power in view of unsettled questions of state law that it would have been called upon to resolve and the likelihood of jury confusion resulting from

Page 411 U. S. 694

the special defenses to a county available under the state tort claims law. Pp. 411 U. S. 710-717.

3. The District Court erred in rejecting petitioner Moor's state law claim against the County, which, under California law, has an independent status, on the basis of diversity of citizenship, since diversity jurisdiction extends to a State's political subdivision that is not simply the arm or alter ego of the State, @ 74 U. S. 717-722.

458 F.2d 1217, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 411 U. S. 722.

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