State Action

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State Action

A requirement for claims that arise under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Civil Rights legislation, for which a private citizen seeks relief in the form of damages or redress based on an improper intrusion by the government into his or her private life.

The U.S. Supreme Court has established that the protections offered by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution apply only to actions authorized or sanctioned by state law. The "state-action" requirement means that private acts of racial discrimination cannot be addressed under these amendments or the federal civil rights laws authorized by the amendments.

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a state from denying any person due process of law and the Equal Protection of the law. The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits a state from infringing on a person's right to vote. Both amendments were passed after the Civil War to guarantee these constitutional rights to newly freed slaves. During Reconstruction, Congress enacted many laws that it claimed were based on these amendments. Armed with this constitutional authority, Congress, in the civil rights act of 1875, sought to prohibit racial discrimination by private parties in the provision of public accommodations, such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, and public transportation.The Supreme Court struck down the 1875 act in the Civil Rights cases, 109 U.S. 3, 3 S. Ct. 18, 27 L. Ed. 835 (1883). It held that under the Fourteenth Amendment, "it is state action of a particular character that is prohibited. Individual invasion of individual rights is not the subject-matter of the amendment." The Court relied on language of the amendment that provides that "no state" shall engage in certain specified conduct.

This restrictive reading of the state-action requirement permitted racial discrimination to flourish in the South. For example, the Supreme Court upheld the "white primary," a device used to circumvent the Fifteenth Amendment, in Grovey v. Townsend, 295 U.S. 45, 55 S. Ct. 622, 79 L. Ed. 1292 (1935). The Court reasoned that because political parties were private organizations, their primary elections did not constitute state action.

The Supreme Court began to move away from a strict state-action requirement in the 1940s. In Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649, 64 S. Ct. 757, 88 L. Ed. 987 (1944), the Court struck down the White Primary as violative of the Fifteenth Amendment, thus overruling Grovey. The Court now found that primary elections played an important part in the democratic process and must be considered as officially sanctioned by the state.

The Court extended this type of analysis in Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 68 S. Ct. 836, 92 L. Ed. 1161 (1948), ruling that racially discriminatory restrictive covenants affecting real estate were unenforceable in state courts, because any such enforcement would amount to state action in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment. Groups of homeowners used restrictive covenants to prevent the sale or rental of their homes to African Americans, Jews, and other minorities. A restriction was included in their real estate deeds forbidding such sale or rental. Until 1948 this form of private discrimination was thought to be legal because the state was not involved.

By the 1960s the Supreme Court was applying a more sophisticated analysis to determine if the state-action requirement had been met. In Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority, 365 U.S. 715, 81 S. Ct. 856, 6 L. Ed. 2d 45 (1961), the Court found state action when a state agency leased property to a restaurant that refused to serve African Americans. It stated that state action in support of discrimination exists when there is a "close nexus" between the functions of the state and the private discrimination.

Nevertheless, the Court has not abandoned the state-action requirement. In Moose Lodge v. Irvis, 407 U.S. 163, 92 S. Ct. 1965, 32 L. Ed. 2d 627 (1972), a racially restrictive private club refused to serve the African American guest of a white member. The Court determined that the mere grant of a liquor license did not convert the private club's discriminatory policy into state action under the Fourteenth Amendment.


Civil Rights Cases; Integration.

state action

n. in Federal Civil Rights Acts, dating back to 1875, any activity by the government of a state, any of its components or employees (like a sheriff), who uses the "color of law" (claim of legal right) to violate an individual's civil rights. Such "state action" gives the person whose rights have been violated by a governmental body or official the right to sue that agency or person for damages. (See: civil rights)

References in periodicals archive ?
That they are rarely discovered is due in part to their skill level and in part to being mis-identified as a state actor instead of a non-state actor if they are discovered.
When one considers the potential of a lesser state actor or a terrorist group to develop and use biological weapons against a militarily superior force, one is forced to ask when the use of this weapon will occur, not if.
To establish that the school was a "state actor," he made five arguments: that Arizona law defines a charter school as a public school; that a charter school is a state actor for all purposes, including employment; that a charter school provides a public education, a function that is traditionally and exclusively the prerogative of the state; that a charter school is a state actor in Arizona because the state regulates the personnel matters of such schools; and that it is a state actor because charier schools, unlike traditional private schools, are permitted to participate in the state's retirement system.
The CFA and the entire peace process is between two parties, it is not based on LTTE as a non-state actor and GoSL (government of Sri Lanka) as a state actor,'' he said.
But the court found that fact issues existed, precluding summary judgment, as to whether the employee of the private corporation became a state actor by using prison disciplinary proceedings to obtain a "judgment" against the inmate.
We will then know if the handler was a Pakistani state actor or not.
Nasir Jamal said that non state actor were primarily responsible for this incident who will be brought to book.
Looking at the quality of the fake currency of India, we are absolutely certain that it is being supplied by a state actor and not by any non-state actor.
Domain : Development - Non state actors and local authorities Co-financing (PVD)
FO Spokesman Qazi Khalilullah during a news briefing in Islamabad today said that in case of India, the international community is aware that state actors have been involved in destabilising and fomenting terrorism in neighbouring countries including Pakistan.
Intolerant non- state actors now control large territories where they are unleashing barbaric violence on innocent people,"said Modi on Thursday.

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