decided*fn*: May 14, 1979.
CHAPMAN, COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES OF TEXAS, ET AL
HOUSTON WELFARE RIGHTS ORGANIZATION ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.
Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Burger, C. J., and Blackmun, Powell, and Rehnquist, JJ., joined. Powell, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Burger, C. J., and Rehnquist, J., joined, post, p. 623. White, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 646. Stewart, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in all but n. 2 of which Brennan and Marshall, JJ., joined, post, p. 672. Brennan and Marshall, JJ., filed a separate statement, post, p. 676.
[ 441 U.S. Page 602]
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The United States District Courts have jurisdiction over civil actions claiming a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution of the United States or by Acts of Congress providing
[ 441 U.S. Page 603]
for equal rights or for the protection of civil rights, including the right to vote.*fn1 The question presented by these cases is whether that jurisdiction encompasses a claim that a state welfare regulation is invalid because it conflicts with the Social Security Act. We conclude that it does not.
In the Social Security Amendments of 1967, Congress authorized partial federal funding of approved state programs providing emergency assistance for certain needy persons.*fn2 In February 1976, Julia Gonzalez, the petitioner in No. 77-5324, requested the Hudson County, N. J., Welfare Board to pay her $163 in emergency assistance funds to cover her rent and utility bills.*fn3 The Board denied her request because
[ 441 U.S. Page 604]
petitioner and her children were not "in a state of homelessness" as required by the relevant New Jersey regulations.*fn4
Petitioner brought suit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey alleging that the emergency payment was "necessary to avoid destitution" within the meaning of § 406 (e)(1) of the federal Social Security Act,*fn5 and she was therefore entitled to the payment notwithstanding the more stringent New Jersey regulation. In her federal complaint she sought damages of $163 and an injunction
[ 441 U.S. Page 605]
commanding the New Jersey Welfare Director to conform his administration of the State's emergency assistance program to federal statutory standards. In essence, petitioner claimed that the New Jersey officials had deprived her of a right to emergency assistance protected by § 406 (e)(1) of the Social Security Act.
The District Court held that the complaint stated a claim under 42 U. S. C. § 1983.*fn6 Without deciding whether the "secured by the Constitution" language in § 1343 (3) should be construed to include Supremacy Clause claims,*fn7 the District Court concluded that it had jurisdiction under both subparagraphs (3) and (4) of § 1343. But in doing so, the court did not explain whether it was § 1983 or § 406 (e)(1) of the Social Security Act that it viewed as the Act of Congress securing "equal rights" or "civil rights." On the merits, the District Court found no conflict between the state regulation and the federal statute and entered summary judgment for respondents.
The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit did not address the merits because it concluded that the District Court should have dismissed the complaint for want of jurisdiction.*fn8 In
[ 441 U.S. Page 606]
reaching this conclusion, the Court of Appeals first noted that § 1983 "is not a jurisdictional statute; it only fashions a remedy." 560 F.2d 160, 164 (1977). Nor could jurisdiction be founded on 28 U. S. C. § 1331,*fn9 the general federal-question jurisdictional statute, since the amount in controversy did not exceed $10,000. The court recognized that when a constitutional claim is of sufficient substance to support federal jurisdiction, a district court has power to consider other claims which might not provide an independent basis for federal jurisdiction.*fn10 But it concluded that the constitutional claim must involve more than a contention that the Supremacy Clause requires that a federal statute be given effect over conflicting state law. It then went on to hold that the Social Security Act is not an Act of Congress securing either "equal rights" or "civil rights" as those terms are used in § 1343. And those terms, the court concluded, limit the grant of federal jurisdiction conferred by § 1343 even if § 1983 creates a remedy for a broader category of statutory claims.
The petitioners in No. 77-719 are Commissioners of the Texas Department of Human Resources, which administers the State's program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Respondents represent a class of AFDC recipients who share living quarters with a nondependent relative. Under the Texas regulations, the presence in the household of a nondependent person results in a reduction in the level of payments to the beneficiaries even if their level of actual need is unchanged. In a suit brought in the United
[ 441 U.S. Page 607]
States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, respondents claimed that the Texas regulations violate § 402 (a)(7) of the Social Security Act, 42 U. S. C. § 602 (a)(7), and the federal regulations promulgated pursuant thereto.*fn11
The District Court upheld the Texas regulations.*fn12 While respondents' appeal was pending, this Court decided Van Lare v. Hurley, 421 U.S. 338. On the authority of that case, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed.*fn13 Following earlier Fifth Circuit cases, the Court of Appeals concluded that federal jurisdiction was conferred by the language in 28 U. S. C. § 1343 (4) describing actions seeking relief "under any Act of Congress providing for the protection of civil rights . . . ." The court reasoned that statutory rights concerning food and shelter are "'rights of an essentially personal nature,'" Houston Welfare Rights Org. v. Vowell, 555 F.2d 1219, 1221 n. 1 (1977); that 42 U. S. C. § 1983 provides a remedy which may be invoked to protect such rights; and that § 1983 is an Act of Congress providing for the protection of civil rights within the meaning of that jurisdictional grant.*fn14
We granted certiorari to resolve the conflict between that conclusion and the holding of the Third Circuit in No. 77-5324. 434 U.S. 1061. We have previously reserved the jurisdictional question we decide today, see Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 533-534, n. 5. We preface our decision with a review of the history of the governing statutes.
Our decision turns on the construction of the two jurisdictional provisions, 28 U. S. C. §§ 1343 (3) and (4), and their
[ 441 U.S. Page 608]
interrelationship with 42 U. S. C. § 1983 and the Social Security Act. As in all cases of statutory construction, our task is to interpret the words of these statutes in light of the purposes Congress sought to serve.
Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 is the source of both the jurisdictional grant now codified in 28 U. S. C. § 1343 (3) and the remedy now authorized by 42 U. S. C. § 1983.*fn15 Section 1 authorized individual suits in federal court to vindicate the deprivation, under color of state law, "of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States." No authorization was given for suits based on any federal statute.
In 1874, Congress enacted the Revised Statutes of the United States. At that time, the remedial and jurisdictional provisions of § 1 were modified and placed in separate sections. The words "and laws," as now found in § 1983, were included in the remedial provision of Rev. Stat. § 1979,*fn16 and two quite
[ 441 U.S. Page 609]
different formulations of the jurisdictional grant were included in Rev. Stat. §§ 563 and 629. The former granted the district courts jurisdiction of all actions to redress a deprivation under color of state law of any right secured by the Constitution or "by any law of the United States."*fn17 The latter defined the jurisdiction of the circuit courts and included the limiting phrase -- "by any law providing for equal rights" -- which is now found in § 1343 (3).*fn18
In the Judicial Code of 1911, Congress abolished circuit courts and transferred their authority to the district courts.*fn19 The Code's definition of the jurisdiction of the district courts to redress the deprivation of civil rights omitted the broad language referring to "any law of the United States" which had defined district court jurisdiction under § 563, and provided instead for jurisdiction over claims arising under federal laws "providing for equal rights" -- the language which had been used to describe circuit court jurisdiction under § 629,
[ 441 U.S. Page 610]
and which is now a part of § 1343 (3).*fn20 No significant change in either the remedial or jurisdictional language has been made since 1911.*fn21
Subsection 4 of § 1343, providing jurisdiction for claims "under any Act of Congress providing for the protection of civil rights, including the right to vote," is of more recent origin. Part III of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, as proposed, authorized the Attorney General to institute suits for injunctive relief against conspiracies to deprive citizens of the civil rights specified in 42 U. S. C. § 1985, which includes voting rights.*fn22 Part III conferred jurisdiction on the United States district courts to entertain proceedings instituted pursuant to this section of the Act.*fn23 While the substantive authorization of suits by the Attorney General was defeated, the amendment of § 1343, which had been termed a technical amendment to comply with the authority conferred by Part III,*fn24 was enacted into law.
With the exception of this most recent enactment, the legislative history of the provisions at issue in these cases ultimately provides us with little guidance as to the proper resolution of the question presented here. Section 1 of the 1871 Act was the least controversial provision of that Act;*fn25
[ 441 U.S. Page 611]
and what little debate did take place as to § 1 centered largely on the question of what protections the Constitution in fact afforded.*fn26 The relevant changes in the Revised Statutes were adopted virtually without comment, as was the definition of civil rights jurisdiction in the 1911 Code. The latter provision was described as simply merging the existing jurisdiction of the district and circuit courts,*fn27 a statement which may be read either as reflecting a view that the broader "and laws" language was intended to be preserved in the more limited "equal rights" language or as suggesting that "and laws" was itself originally enacted with reference to laws providing for equal rights, and was never thought to be any broader.
Similar ambiguity is found in discussions of the basic policy of the legislation. While there is weight to the claim that Congress, from 1874 onward, intended to create a broad right of action in federal court for deprivations by a State of any federally secured right, it is also clear that the prime focus of Congress in all of the relevant legislation was ensuring a right of action to enforce the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment and the federal laws enacted pursuant thereto.
We cannot say that any of these arguments is ultimately
[ 441 U.S. Page 612]
right or wrong, or that one policy is more persuasive than others in reflecting the intent of Congress. It may well be that, at least as to § 1343 (3), the Congresses that enacted the 1871 Act and its subsequent amendments never considered the question of federal jurisdiction of claims arising under the broad scope of federal substantive authority that emerged many years later. This does not mean that jurisdiction cannot be found to encompass claims nonexistent in 1871 or 1874, but it cautions us to be hesitant in finding jurisdiction for new claims which do not clearly fit within the terms of the statute.*fn28
The statutory language suggests three different approaches to the jurisdictional issue. The first involves a consideration of the words "secured by the Constitution of the United States" as used in § 1343. The second focuses on the remedy authorized by § 1983 and raises the question whether that section is a statute that secures "equal rights" or "civil rights" within the meaning of § 1343. The third approach makes the jurisdictional issue turn on whether the Social Security Act is a statute that secures "equal rights" or "civil rights." We consider these approaches in turn.
1. The Supremacy Clause
Under § 1343 (3), Congress has created federal jurisdiction of any civil action authorized by law to redress the deprivation under color of state law "of any right, privilege or immunity secured  by the Constitution of the United States or  by any Act of Congress providing for equal rights of citizens or of all persons within the jurisdiction of the United
[ 441 U.S. Page 613]
States." Claimants correctly point out that the first prepositional phrase can be fairly read to describe rights secured by the Supremacy Clause. For even though that Clause is not a source of any federal rights, it does "secure" federal rights by according them priority whenever they come in conflict with state law.*fn29 In that sense all federal rights, whether created by treaty, by statute, or by regulation, are "secured" by the Supremacy Clause.
In Swift & Co. v. Wickham, 382 U.S. 111, the Court was confronted with an analogous choice between two interpretations of the statute defining the jurisdiction of three-judge district courts.*fn30 The comprehensive language of that statute, 28 U. S. C. § 2281 (1970 ed.),*fn31 could have been broadly read to
[ 441 U.S. Page 614]
encompass statutory claims secured by the Supremacy Clause or narrowly read to exclude claims that involve no federal constitutional provision except that Clause. After acknowledging that the broader reading was consistent not only with the statutory language but also with the policy of the statute, the Court accepted the more restrictive reading. Its reasoning is persuasive and applicable to the problems confronting us in this case.
"This restrictive view of the application of § 2281 is more consistent with a discriminating reading of the statute itself than is the first and more embracing interpretation. The statute requires a three-judge court in order to restrain the enforcement of a state statute 'upon the ground of the unconstitutionality of such statute.' Since all federal actions to enjoin a state enactment rest ultimately on the Supremacy Clause, the words 'upon the ground of the unconstitutionality of such statute' would appear to be superfluous unless they are read to exclude some types of such injunctive suits. For a simple provision prohibiting the restraint of the enforcement of any state statute except by a three-judge court would manifestly have sufficed to embrace every such suit whatever its particular constitutional ground. It is thus quite permissible to read the phrase in question as one of limitation, signifying a congressional purpose to confine the three-judge court requirement to injunction suits depending directly upon a substantive provision of the Constitution, leaving cases of conflict with a federal statute (or treaty) to follow their normal course in a single-judge court." Swift & Co. v. Wickham, supra, at 126-127 (footnotes omitted).
Just as the phrase in § 2281 -- "upon the ground of the
[ 441 U.S. Page 615]
unconstitutionality of such statute" -- would have been superfluous unless read as a limitation on three-judge-court jurisdiction, so is it equally clear that the entire reference in § 1343 (3) to rights secured by an Act of Congress would be unnecessary if the earlier reference to constitutional claims embraced those resting solely on the Supremacy Clause. More importantly, the additional language which describes a limited category of Acts of Congress -- those "providing for equal rights of citizens" -- plainly negates the notion that jurisdiction over all statutory claims had already been conferred by the preceding reference to constitutional claims.
Thus, while we recognize that there is force to claimants' argument that the remedial purpose of the civil rights legislation supports an expansive interpretation of the phrase "secured by the Constitution," it would make little sense for Congress to have drafted the statute as it did if it had intended to confer jurisdiction over every conceivable federal claim against a state agent. In order to give meaning to the entire statute as written by Congress, we must conclude that an allegation of incompatibility between federal and state statutes and regulations does not, in itself, give rise to a claim "secured by the Constitution" within the meaning of § 1343 (3).
2. Section 1983
Claimants next argue that the "equal rights" language of § 1343 (3) should not be read literally or, if it is, that § 1983, the source of their asserted cause of action, should be considered an Act of Congress "providing for equal rights" within the meaning of § 1343 (3) or "providing for the protection of civil rights" within § 1343 (4). In support of this position, they point to the common origin of §§ 1983 and 1343 (3) in the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and this Court's recognition that the latter is the jurisdictional counterpart of the former.*fn32
[ 441 U.S. Page 616]
Since broad language describing statutory claims was used in both provisions during the period between 1874 and 1911 and has been retained in § 1983, and since Congress in the Judicial Code of 1911 purported to be making no changes in the existing law as to jurisdiction in this area, the "equal rights" language of § 1343 (3) must be construed to encompass all statutory claims arising under the broader language of § 1983. Moreover, in view of its origin in the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and its function in modern litigation, § 1983 does "[provide] for the protection of civil rights" within the meaning of § 1343 (4).
In practical effect, this argument leads to the same result as claimants' Supremacy Clause argument: jurisdiction over all challenges to state action based on any federal ground. Although the legislative history does not forbid this result, the words and structure of the statute, as well as portions of the legislative history, support a more limited construction.
The common origin of §§ 1983 and 1343 (3) unquestionably implies that their coverage is, or at least originally was, coextensive. It is not, however, necessary in this case to decide whether the two provisions have the same scope. For even if they do, there would still be the question whether the "and laws" language in § 1983 should be narrowly read to conform with the "equal rights" language in § 1343 (3), or, conversely, the latter phrase should be broadly read to parallel the former. And, in all events, whether or not we assume that there is a difference between "any law of the United States" on the one hand and "any Act of Congress providing for equal rights" on the other, the fact is that the more limited language was used when Congress last amended the jurisdictional provision. In order to construe the broad language of § 1983 to cover any statutory claim, and at the same time to construe the language of § 1343 (3) as coextensive with such a cause of action, it would be necessary to ignore entirely Congress' most recent limiting amendment and the words of the provision as currently in force.
[ 441 U.S. Page 617]
We cannot accept claimants' argument that we should reach this result by holding that § 1983 is an Act of Congress "providing for equal rights" within the meaning of § 1343 (3). Unlike the 1866 and 1870 Acts,*fn33 § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 did not provide for any substantive rights -- equal or otherwise. As introduced and enacted, it served only to ensure that an individual had a cause of action for violations of the Constitution, which in the Fourteenth Amendment embodied and extended to all individuals as against state action the substantive protections afforded by § 1 of the 1866 Act.*fn34 No matter how broad the § 1 cause of action may be, the breadth of its coverage does not alter its procedural character. Even if claimants are correct in asserting that § 1983 provides a cause of action for all federal statutory claims, it remains true that one cannot go into court and claim a "violation of § 1983" -- for § 1983 by itself does not protect anyone against anything. As Senator Edmunds recognized in the 1871 debate: "All civil suits, as every lawyer understands, which this act authorizes, are not based upon it;
[ 441 U.S. Page 618]
they are based upon the right of the citizen. The act only gives a remedy."*fn35
Under § 1343 (3), a civil action must be both "authorized by law" and brought to redress the deprivation of rights "secured by the Constitution of the United States or by any Act of Congress providing for equal rights." Section 1983, when properly invoked, satisfies the first requirement: It ensures that the suit will not be dismissed because not "authorized by law." But it cannot satisfy the second, since by its terms, as well as its history, it does not provide any rights at all.
We reach a similar conclusion with respect to the argument that § 1983 is a statute "providing for the protection of civil rights, including the right to vote." Standing alone, § 1983 clearly provides no protection for civil rights since, as we have just concluded, § 1983 does not provide any substantive rights at all. To be sure, it may be argued that § 1983 does in some sense "[provide] for the protection of civil rights" when it authorizes a cause of action based on the deprivation of civil rights guaranteed by other Acts of Congress. But in such cases, there is no question as to jurisdiction, and no need to invoke § 1983 to meet the "civil rights" requirement of § 1343 (4); the Act of Congress which is the actual substantive basis of the suit clearly suffices to meet the requisite test.*fn36 It is only when the underlying statute is not a civil rights Act that § 1983 need be invoked by those in claimants' position to support jurisdiction. And in such cases, by hypothesis, § 1983 does not "[provide] for the protection of civil rights."
To construe § 1343 (4), moreover, as encompassing all federal statutory suits, as claimants here propose, would seem plainly inconsistent with the congressional intent in passing that statute. As noted earlier, the provision's primary purpose
[ 441 U.S. Page 619]
was to ensure federal-court jurisdiction over suits which the bill authorized the Attorney General to bring against conspiracies to deprive individuals of the civil rights enumerated in 42 U. S. C. § 1985.*fn37 The statute, of course, is broader than that: It encompasses suits brought by private individuals as well, and thus retained some significance even after the provisions authorizing suit by the Attorney General were defeated. But to the extent that § 1343 (4) was thought to expand existing federal jurisdiction, it was only because it does not require that the claimed deprivation be "under color of any State law."*fn38 One would expect that if Congress sought
[ 441 U.S. Page 620]
not only to eliminate any state-action requirement but also to allow jurisdiction without respect to the amount in controversy for claims which in fact have nothing to do with "civil rights," there would be some indication of such an intent. But there is none, either in the legislative history or in the words of the statute itself.
3. The Social Security Act
It follows from what we have said thus far that § 1343 does not confer federal jurisdiction over the claims based on the Social Security Act unless that Act may fairly be characterized as a statute securing "equal rights" within § 1343 (3) or "civil rights" within § 1343 (4). The Social Security Act provisions at issue here authorize federal assistance to participating States in the provision of a wide range of monetary benefits to needy individuals, including emergency assistance and payments necessary to provide food and shelter. Arguably, a statute that is intended to provide at least a minimum level of subsistence for all individuals could be regarded as securing either "equal rights" or "civil rights."*fn39 We are persuaded,
[ 441 U.S. Page 621]
however, that both of these terms have a more restrictive meaning as used in the jurisdictional statute.
The Social Security Act does not deal with the concept of "equality" or with the guarantee of "civil rights," as those terms are commonly understood. The Congress that enacted § 1343 (3) was primarily concerned with providing jurisdiction for cases dealing with racial equality; the Congress that enacted § 1343 (4) was primarily concerned with providing jurisdiction for actions dealing with the civil rights enumerated in 42 U. S. C. § 1985, and most notably the right to vote. While the words of these statutes are not limited to the precise claims which motivated their passage,*fn40 it is inappropriate to read the jurisdictional provisions to encompass new claims which fall well outside the common understanding of their terms.
Our conclusion that the Social Security Act does not fall within the terms of either § 1343 (3) or (4) is supported by this Court's construction of similar phrases in the removal statute, 28 U. S. C. § 1443. The removal statute makes reference to "any law providing for the equal civil rights of citizens" and "any law providing for equal rights." In construing these phrases in Georgia v. Rachel, 384 U.S. 780, this Court concluded:
"The present language 'any law providing for . . . equal civil rights' first appeared in § 641 of the Revised Statutes of 1874. When the Revised Statutes were compiled, the substantive and removal provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 were carried forward in separate sections. Hence, Congress could no longer identify the rights for which removal was available by using the language of the original Civil Rights Act -- 'rights secured to them by the first section of this act.' The new
[ 441 U.S. Page 622]
language it chose, however, does not suggest that it intended to limit the scope of removal to rights recognized in statutes existing in 1874. On the contrary, Congress' choice of the open-ended phrase 'any law providing for . . . equal civil rights' was clearly appropriate to permit removal in cases involving 'a right under' both existing and future statutes that provided for equal civil rights.
"There is no substantial indication, however, that the general language of § 641 of the Revised Statutes was intended to expand the kinds of 'law' to which the removal section referred. In spite of the potential breadth of the phrase 'any law providing for . . . equal civil rights,' it seems clear that in enacting § 641, Congress intended in that phrase only to include laws comparable in nature to the Civil Rights Act of 1866. . . .
". . . As the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has concluded, § 1443 'applies only to rights that are granted in terms of equality and not to the whole gamut of constitutional rights . . . .' 'When the removal statute speaks of "any law providing for equal rights," it refers to those laws that are couched in terms of equality, such as the historic and the recent equal rights statutes, as distinguished from laws, of which the due process clause and 42 U. S. C. § 1983 are sufficient examples, that confer equal rights in the sense, vital to our way of life, of bestowing them upon all.' New York v. Galamison, 342 F.2d 255, 269, 271. See also Gibson v. Mississippi, 162 U.S. 565, 585-586; Kentucky v. Powers, 201 U.S. 1, 39-40; City of Greenwood v. Peacock, [384 U.S. 808,] 825." Id., at 789-790, 792 (footnotes omitted).
In accord with Georgia v. Rachel,*fn41 the Courts of Appeals have
[ 441 U.S. Page 623]
consistently held that the Social Security Act is not a statute providing for "equal rights." See Andrews v. Maher, 525 F.2d 113 (CA2 1975); Aguayo v. Richardson, 473 F.2d 1090, 1101 (CA2 1973), cert. denied sub nom. Aguayo v. Weinberger, 414 U.S. 1146 (1974). We endorse those holdings, and find that a similar conclusion is warranted with respect to § 1343 (4) as well. See McCall v. Shapiro, 416 F.2d 246, 249 (CA2 1969).
We therefore hold that the District Court did not have jurisdiction in either of these cases. Accordingly, the judgment in No. 77-5324 is affirmed, and the judgment in No. 77-719 is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
No. 77-5324, 560 F.2d 160, affirmed; No. 77-719, 555 F.2d 1219, reversed and remanded.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST join, concurring.
I join the Court's opinion*fn1 and agree that it is not necessary in these cases to decide the meaning of the phrase "Constitution and laws" in 42 U. S. C. § 1983. See ante, at 616. MR. JUSTICE WHITE has taken a contrary view, however, and has concluded that because the statute now codified as § 1983 includes the words "and laws," it provides a private cause of action for the deprivation, under color of state law, of any federal statutory right. Anyone who ventures into the thicket of the legislative history of § 1983 quickly realizes that
[ 441 U.S. Page 624]
there is no clearly marked path to the correct interpretation of this statute. Yet, there is sufficient evidence to indicate convincingly that the phrase "and laws" was intended as no more than a shorthand reference to the equal rights legislation enacted by Congress. Because I do not think MR. JUSTICE WHITE's interpretation can survive careful examination of the legislative history of § 1983, I write separately.
Section 1983 provides a private cause of action for the deprivation, under color of state law, of "rights . . . secured by the Constitution and laws."*fn2 An examination of the genesis of this statute makes clear the hazard of viewing too expansively the statute's broad reference to "laws." Pursuant to legislative direction, see Act of June 27, 1866, 14 Stat. 74, President Andrew Johnson appointed three distinguished jurists to constitute a commission to simplify, organize, and consolidate all federal statutes of a general and permanent nature. These revisers and their successors spent several years in producing the volume enacted by Congress as the Revised Statutes of 1874. See Dwan & Feidler, The Federal Statutes -- Their History and Use, 22 Minn. L. Rev. 1008, 1012-1015 (1938). Section 1983 first appeared in its present form as § 1979 of the Revised Statutes,*fn3 which in turn was derived from § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13. It was in the 1874 revision that the words "and laws" were added.
[ 441 U.S. Page 625]
The history of the revision makes abundantly clear that Congress did not intend the revision to alter the content of federal statutory law. The Act of Congress authorizing the revision discloses no warrant to do so. 14 Stat. 74. In reporting to the House on the progress of their task, the revisers advised that, while some changes in the wording of federal statutes were necessary, "[every] essential provision of the existing laws must be reproduced, with such additions only by the [revisers] as shall give to these provisions their intended effect." Report of the Commissioners to Revise the Statutes of the United States, H. R. Misc. Doc. No. 31, 40th Cong., 3d Sess., 2 (1869). Before the work was approved by Congress, it was scrutinized, at the behest of a joint congressional committee, for nine months by Thomas Jefferson Durant, an attorney not involved in the initial drafting, for the express purpose of detecting changes and restoring the original meaning. See 2 Cong. Rec. 646 (1874) (remarks of Rep. Poland); id., at 129 (remarks of Rep. Butler); Dwan & Feidler, supra, at 1013-1014. Thereafter it was reviewed by both the House Committee on Revision of the Laws, see 2 Cong. Rec. 646 (1874) (remarks of Rep. Poland), and by the House itself in a series of special evening sessions, see infra, at 638-639, for the purpose of making " such changes and amendments as [are] necessary to make [sure] that it will be an exact transcript, an exact reflex, of the existing statute law of the United States -- that there shall be nothing omitted and nothing changed." 2 Cong. Rec. 646 (1874) (remarks of Rep. Poland) (emphasis added). Members of Congress who urged enactment of the revision into positive law stated unequivocally that no substantive changes were intended. For example, Senator Conkling, chairman of the Senate Committee on the Revision of the Laws, in reporting the revision to the Senate, said:
"[Although] phraseology of course has been changed, the aim throughout has been to preserve absolute identity of
[ 441 U.S. Page 626]
meaning, not to change the law in any particular, however minute, but to present . . . the law in all its parts as it was actually found to exist dispersed through seventeen volumes of statutes." Id., at 4220.*fn4
In spite of these efforts, it may have been inevitable in an undertaking of such magnitude that changes in the language of some statutes arguably would alter their meaning. When confronted with such changes, we should remember the "'familiar rule, that a thing may be within the letter of the statute and yet not within the statute, because not within its spirit, nor within the intention of its makers.'" Muniz v. Hoffman, 422 U.S. 454, 469 (1975) (quoting Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 459 (1892)). I do not foreclose
[ 441 U.S. Page 627]
the possibility that some statutory change attributable solely to the 1874 revision may be accepted at face value. See United States v. Sischo, 262 U.S. 165, 168-169 (1923). But certainly the better wisdom is that "an insertion [of language] in the Revised Statutes . . . is not lightly to be read as making a change . . . ." Ibid.
I therefore am unable to accept uncritically the view that merely because the phrase "and laws" was inserted into the predecessor of § 1983 during the revision, that statute henceforth must be read as embracing all federal rights. The presence of this addition merely launches the inquiry into the legislative intent behind the present wording of § 1983.*fn5
The history of § 1983 begins with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 14 Stat. 27. Section 1 of the Act guaranteed all citizens of the United States "the same right . . . to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens." Section 2 made it a misdemeanor for any person, acting under color of state law, to deprive another of the rights enumerated in § 1. Jurisdiction over the criminal actions described in § 2, as well as over civil actions to enforce the rights granted in § 1, was provided by § 3, which stated in part:
"[The] district courts of the United States . . . shall have . . . cognizance . . . , concurrently with the circuit courts of the United States, of all causes, civil and criminal,
[ 441 U.S. Page 628]
affecting persons who are denied . . . any of the rights secured to them by the first section of this act. . . ."
The first three sections of the 1866 Act were the models for parts of two subsequent civil rights statutes. First, §§ 16 and 17 of the 1870 Civil Rights Act, 16 Stat. 144, were copied, with some changes, directly from §§ 1 and 2 of the 1866 Act,*fn6 and § 18 stated that §§ 16 and 17 were to "be enforced according to the provisions of said act" -- i. e., the jurisdictional provisions of § 3 of the 1866 law.*fn7 Second, § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13, known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, was modeled after § 2 of the 1866 law. Rather than providing for criminal liability, however, it granted a private civil cause of action; and in place of the enumerated rights of § 1 of the 1866 Act, it encompassed the deprivation, under color of state law, of "any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States." Concurrent circuit and district court jurisdiction over these civil actions was to be governed by § 3 of the 1866 Act, which again was incorporated by reference. Section 1 of the 1871 Act is the direct ancestor of § 1983.
The statutes discussed above were among the civil rights and related jurisdictional provisions in force when the task of producing the Revised Statutes was commenced. Of immediate concern, of course, is § 1 of the 1871 Act, which became § 1979 of the Revised Statutes and, finally, 42 U. S. C. § 1983. As that statute came to the revisers, it extended only to deprivations, under color of state law, of rights "secured by the Constitution." As it left their hands, this phrase had been
[ 441 U.S. Page 629]
altered to read "secured by the Constitution and laws." The problem is to discover whether the revisers and the Congress that accepted their work intended, by the addition of the two words "and laws," greatly to expand the coverage of the statute to encompass every federal statutory right. See post, at 654.
A primary source of information about the meaning of the Revised Statutes is a two-volume draft published by the revisers in 1872. Revision of the United States Statutes as Drafted by the Commissioners Appointed for that Purpose (1872) (hereinafter Draft). This Draft provides insight into the thinking of its authors in two ways: It contains marginal notations indicating the sources from which each section of the proposed text was derived, and it includes explanatory notes following some of the proposed provisions, discussing problems encountered by the revisers and justifying the use of particular word choices.*fn8
As it appears in the Draft (and in the final text), § 1979 creates a cause of action for the deprivation of "rights . . . secured by the Constitution and laws." The only indication in the Draft concerning the language of § 1979 is the marginal notation showing that it was derived from § 1 of the 1871 Civil Rights Act. Although the revisers gave no direct explanation for their insertion of the reference to "laws," their reasons for that change are revealed by a close examination of similar modification made in the jurisdictional counterparts to § 1979.
As part of their general scheme of organizing the federal statutes, the revisers consolidated all the jurisdictional provisions of the Statutes at Large in the "Judiciary" title of the revision. As noted above, § 3 of the 1866 Act had been relied
[ 441 U.S. Page 630]
upon by Congress to provide concurrent jurisdiction in the district and circuit courts for the civil actions authorized by § 1979. As each of these courts was dealt with in separate chapters in the "Judiciary" title, the jurisdictional authority of § 3 was written into two separate provisions. One was § 563 (12), placed under the chapter dealing with the district courts; the counterpart in the chapter on circuit court jurisdiction was § 629 (16).*fn9 Both sections mirrored closely the language of § 1979, and the marginal notations for each indicated that both were derived from precisely the same source.*fn10
In spite of this identity of origin and purpose, these two jurisdictional provisions contained a difference in wording. Section 563 (12) provided district court jurisdiction over civil actions brought to redress the deprivation, under color of state law, of rights secured by the Constitution, or "of any right secured by any law of the United States." Section 629 (16), by contrast, contained, in place of the latter phrase, the words "of any right secured by any law providing for equal rights." Fortunately, in including a reference to laws in § 629 (16), the revisers provided what they omitted in their drafts of §§ 563 (12) and 1979: a detailed and lengthy note explaining their reasons for going beyond the language of the prior civil rights statutes. 1 Draft 359. This note not only makes explicit the meaning of the words "any law providing for equal rights," it discloses the correct interpretation of the analogous language in §§ 563 (12) and 1979 as well.
[ 441 U.S. Page 631]
As part of a larger argument justifying some of the differences in language between § 629 (16) in the revision and § 3 of the 1866 Act,*fn11 the revisers' note makes an important statement concerning the relationship between the broad language of § 1 of the 1871 Act, from which § 1979 was taken, and the earlier statutes providing for specifically enumerated rights:
"It may have been the intention of Congress to provide, by [§ 1 of the 1871 Act], for all the cases of [the enumerated] deprivations mentioned in [§ 16 of] the previous act of 1870, and thus actually to supersede the
[ 441 U.S. Page 632]
indefinite provisions contained in that act. [*fn12 ] But as it might perhaps be held that only such rights as are specifically secured by the Constitution, and not every right secured by a law authorized by the Constitution, were here intended, it is deemed safer to add a reference to the civil-rights act."*fn13 1 Draft 362.
This passage reflects the revisers' understanding that Congress intended by its reference in § 1 of the 1871 Act to "rights . . . secured by the Constitution" to make unlawful the deprivation
[ 441 U.S. Page 633]
under color of state law of any right enumerated in § 1 of the 1866 Act and § 16 of the 1870 Act. The revisers doubtless were aware that § 1 of the 1871 Act was intended by Congress as a legislative implementation of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, which in turn was intended to constitutionalize the enumerated rights of § 1 of the 1866 Act. See Gressman, The Unhappy History of Civil Rights Legislation, 50 Mich. L. Rev. 1323, 1329-1334 (1952); tenBroek, Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States -- Consummation to Abolition and Key to the Fourteenth Amendment, 39 Calif. L. Rev. 171, 200-202 (1951); ante, at 617, and n. 34. They therefore believed that § 1 of the 1866 Act, to the extent it protected against deprivations under color of state law, was meant to be fully encompassed by the phrase "rights . . . secured by the Constitution" in § 1 of the 1871 Act. But realizing that the courts likely would read this phrase restrictively, it was "deemed safer" to add to "rights . . . secured by the Constitution," as it appeared in § 629 (16), a second phrase -- "or . . . secured by any law providing for equal rights" -- as a shorthand reference to the civil rights legislation granting specified rights.*fn14
[ 441 U.S. Page 634]
Although § 563 (12) refers generally to "any law of the United States," it is manifest that the revisers intended §§ 563 (12) and 629 (16) to be identical in scope. The two provisions were derived from precisely the same sources in the Statutes at Large, see n. 10, supra, and there is no indication whatsoever that in separating the two the revisers intended to give them different meanings. Indeed, in the explanatory note to § 629 (16), the revisers made explicit their awareness that the problems confronting them with respect to circuit court jurisdiction applied equally to the district courts, since those two tribunals were to have identical, concurrent jurisdiction over all matters to which § 629 (16) extended. After explaining why § 3 of the 1866 Act, if taken literally, would greatly broaden federal jurisdiction, see n. 11, supra, the revisers stated:
"[It] can hardly be supposed that Congress designed, not only to open the doors of the circuit courts to these parties without reference to the ordinary conditions of citizenship and amount in dispute, but, in their behalf, to convert the district courts into courts of general common law and equity jurisdiction. It seems to be a reasonable construction, therefore, that instead of proposing an incidental but complete revolution in the character and functions of the district courts, as a measure of relief to parties who are elsewhere denied certain rights, Congress intended only to give a remedy in direct redress of that deprivation, and to allow that remedy to be sought in the courts of the United States." 1 Draft 361 (emphasis added).
It appears that two jurisdictional provisions were created simply because the revisers elected to write separate chapters for the district and circuit courts.
In light of these considerations, the difference in the wording of §§ 563 (12) and 629 (16) must be ascribed to oversight,
[ 441 U.S. Page 635]
rather than to an intent to give the former provision greater scope than the latter.*fn15 Having ascertained that §§ 563 (12) and 629 (16) have the same scope, one can conclude only that the more restrictive language of § 629 (16) governs § 563 (12) as well, as the former was given more care and deliberation, and its language more precisely reflects the express understanding of the revisers.*fn16 It is understandable, therefore, that when the original jurisdiction of the circuit courts was eliminated in the Judicial Code of 1911, the more precisely drafted circuit court provision was chosen to replace the broader district court statute. It thus was § 629 (16) that became 28 U. S. C. § 1343 (3), a selection undoubtedly made by the drafters of the Judicial Code in recognition of the fact that this provision expresses more accurately the original intent of Congress than does § 563 (12). See Note, 72 Colum. L. Rev., supra n. 15, at 1423, and n. 152.
The fact that the revisers understood the words "any law" in § 563 (12) to refer only to the equal rights laws enacted by Congress necessarily illuminates the meaning of the similar, contemporaneously drafted reference in § 1979. The legislative
[ 441 U.S. Page 636]
history shows unmistakably that the revisers drafted §§ 563 (12) and 629 (16) for the precise purpose of providing jurisdiction for actions brought under § 1979.*fn17 Just as the difference in wording between the two jurisdictional provisions is, in light of the historical evidence, not a persuasive reason for concluding that they differ in meaning, the variation between §§ 629 (16) and 1979 does not justify a construction that gives the latter a vastly broader scope than its jurisdictional counterpart. Indeed, only recently the Court decided in Examining Board v. Flores de Otero, 426 U.S. 572 (1976), that despite an unexplained difference in the language of §§ 1979 and 629 (16) that was introduced during the 1874 revision, these statutes must be construed as identical in scope.*fn18 426 U.S., at 580-586. A similar approach to the language under scrutiny here is equally correct.
The explanatory note accompanying § 629 (16) makes perfectly clear that the revisers attributed to Congress the understanding that the particularly described rights of §§ 1977 and 1978 were protected against deprivation under color of state law by the words "rights . . . secured by the Constitution" in § 1979. Out of an abundance of caution, however, a
[ 441 U.S. Page 637]
phrase was added to these words wherever they appeared. In § 629 (16), to which particular attention was devoted, the addition was "or of any right secured by any law providing for equal rights." In § 563 (12) it was less precise: "or of any right secured by any law." In § 1979 the relevant language became "secured by the Constitution and laws." Despite the variations between these phrases, I am fully persuaded that each was intended to express the same meaning that is explicitly attributed by the revisers to the text of § 629 (16).*fn19 One might wish that the revisers had expressed themselves with greater precision, but when viewed in the context of the purpose and history of this legislation, it becomes evident that the insertion by the revisers of "and laws" in § 1979 was intended to do no more than ensure that federal legislation providing specifically for equality of rights would be brought within the ambit of the civil action authorized by that statute.*fn20
[ 441 U.S. Page 638]
Indeed, any other conclusion is unsupportable. It would be remarkable if the same revisers who disavowed any intent to make substantive changes in federal law and drafted § 629 (16) as the jurisdictional partner to § 1979 would, without any comment whatsoever,*fn21 add language to § 1979 for the purpose of making its coverage markedly incongruent with that of § 629 (16), at the same time expanding its scope far beyond that originally provided by Congress. Indeed, as an illustration of what they were confident Congress had not intended with the jurisdictional counterpart to § 1979, the revisers raised the specter of opening the federal courts to actions completely unrelated to the deprivation of civil rights. See n. 11, supra . Yet MR. JUSTICE WHITE would hold that just such a result was accomplished when the words "and laws" quietly appeared in § 1979.
The underlying historical question, of course, is not simply what the revisers intended, but what Congress meant by the language of § 1979 as it finally was enacted. In light of Congress' clearly expressed purpose not to alter the meaning of prior law, see Part I, supra, it cannot be argued, absent some indication to the contrary, that Congress intended "and laws" to mean anything other than what was understood by the revisers, as shown above.
Nor was Congress merely silent on this issue. The bill to enact the revision into positive law received considerable attention in the House, where two special night sessions were convened each week for as long as necessary to allow all Members wishing to scrutinize the bill to do so until the
[ 441 U.S. Page 639]
entire document had been reviewed.*fn22 See 2 Cong. Rec. 646-650 (1874). During these meetings, many amendments were adopted, see, e. g., id., at 819-829, 849-858, 995-1001, 2709-2714, each on the understanding that it was restorative of the original meaning of the Statutes at Large, and not an amendment to existing law. See id., at 647-648 (remarks of Rep. Poland). During one of these sessions, Representative Lawrence observed that the work of revision necessarily required changes in the language of the original statutes. He illustrated the method used by the revisers by inviting his colleagues to compare the original text of the very civil rights statutes at issue here with the corresponding text of the revision. Included in the statutes read verbatim were § 1 of the 1871 Act, which, of course, does not contain the reference to "laws," and the text of § 1979, which does. In the course of his remarks Representative Lawrence said: "A comparison of . . . these will present a fair specimen of the manner in which the work has been done, and from these all can judge of the accuracy of the translation." 2 Cong. Rec., at 827-828. The House was convened for the sole purpose of detecting language in the revision that changed the meaning of existing law. From the absence of any comment at this point in the session, one may infer that no one present thought that § 1979 would effect such a change.*fn23
[ 441 U.S. Page 640]
In spite of the unchallenged body of evidence to the contrary, MR. JUSTICE WHITE insists that § 1983 "was . . . expanded to encompass all statutory as well as constitutional rights." Post, at 654. I find this conclusion to be completely at odds with the legislative history of the statute and its jurisdictional counterparts.*fn24
[ 441 U.S. Page 641]
The legislative history of §§ 1979, 629 (16), and 563 (12) notwithstanding, the opinion concurring in the judgment argues that the words "and laws" in § 1983 should be read broadly because the Court has given such a construction to similar language appearing in 18 U. S. C. §§ 241 and 242. This assertion is undermined, however, by the history of the statutes in question.
Section 242 originated in § 2 of the 1866 Act. As noted supra, at 627, § 2 made it a misdemeanor to deprive, under color of state law, any citizen of the rights specified in § 1 of that Act. Section 2 was repeated, with some modification, as § 17 of the 1870 Act. Section 17 made criminal the deprivation, under color of state law, of the rights enumerated in § 16.*fn25
[ 441 U.S. Page 642]
An entirely independent criminal provision of the 1870 Act, § 6, made a far broader sweep. It did not require that the conduct it proscribed be performed under color of state law, and it explicitly prohibited certain conduct intended to deprive a citizen of "any right or privilege granted or secured . . . by the Constitution or laws of the United States." (Emphasis added.)*fn26 Significantly, this is the only statute discussed in this or MR. JUSTICE WHITE's separate opinion in which the reference to statutory law as well as the phrase "rights secured by the Constitution" appears in the text originally drafted by Congress; in all other cases the reference to "laws" originated in the revision. Section 6 is thus the only one of these statutes for which there is a substantial argument that Congress truly intended to cover all federal statutory law.
Sections 6 and 17 of the 1870 Act were included in the revision as §§ 5508 and 5510, respectively, and MR. JUSTICE WHITE relies on the fact that both emerged with language that, on its face, covered all rights secured by federal statutory law. While he may well be correct that the words "Constitution or laws" in § 5508 should be taken at face value, the evidence does not support the same conclusion with respect to § 5510.
In the 1872 Draft of the revision, § 5510 was written to provide for criminal sanctions against deprivations, under color of state law, "of any right secured or protected by section of the Title CIVIL RIGHTS." 2 Draft 2627. Although no explanatory note accompanies this section, it is evident from the face of the text that the revisers were attempting to preserve the limited scope of § 17 of the 1870 Act by restricting its coverage to specifically enumerated rights. In the final version of the revision, the language had been changed, apparently
[ 441 U.S. Page 643]
by Mr. Durant,*fn27 see supra, at 625, to punish deprivations of rights "secured . . . by the Constitution and laws."
In light of the historical explanation of the meaning of "Constitution and laws" in § 1979, it is not surprising that this term should have been substituted for the language used in the draft of § 5510. As we have seen, in other contexts the appendage of "and laws" to "rights . . . secured by the Constitution" simply referred to the rights protected by the legislation enacted to provide for equal rights, as authorized by the recently adopted Amendments to the Constitution. Indeed, the House debates make explicit the fact that the change from the revisers' draft of § 5510 to the text ultimately adopted was made simply to be certain that this criminal provision would encompass the rights covered by the existing civil rights statutes discussed at length in this opinion: § 1 of the 1866 Act, § 16 of the 1870 Act, and § 1 of the 1871 Act. See 2 Cong. Rec. 827-828 (1874) (remarks of Rep. Lawrence). There is no evidence that Congress intended § 5510 to cover all federal statutory law.*fn28
Despite the apparent similarity of the language of 18 U. S. C. §§ 241 and 242, therefore, they are in fact very different in scope. There is solid historical justification for the view that § 241 "dealt with Federal rights and with all Federal rights, and protected them in the lump," United States v. Mosley, 238 U.S. 383, 387 (1915) (interpreting Rev. Stat. § 5508, currently 18 U. S. C. § 241), because the expansive
[ 441 U.S. Page 644]
language was put there by Congress itself. The same simply is not true of § 242. Considered in its historical context, the addition of "and laws" to this statute requires a much more modest reading. Even if there are dicta in our opinions to the effect that §§ 241 and 242 cover an identical class of deprivations of rights, such a construction of § 242 was not made with the benefit of the close historical scrutiny necessary to a proper understanding of this law.*fn29 I agree with MR. JUSTICE WHITE that "and laws" means the same thing in § 1983 as in § 242.30[a] I am convinced, however, that he misconstrues the phrase in both instances.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE states that he is "not disposed to repudiate" the dicta in some of our prior decisions. See post, at 658. It is, of course, true that several decisions contain statements premised upon the assumption that § 1983 covers a broad range of federal statutory claims. E. g., Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 675 (1974); Greenwood v. Peacock, 384 U.S. 808, 829-830 (1966). But that assumption has been made uncritically. Until these cases, no prior opinion of the Court or of a Justice thereof has undertaken a close examination of the pertinent legislative history of § 1983, including the work of the commissioners who drafted the Revised Statutes of 1874. Thus, there is nothing in the cases cited by
[ 441 U.S. Page 645]
MR. JUSTICE WHITE that precludes a fresh look at this question.
In Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), decided just last Term, the Court was willing to go beyond confessing error in previous dicta. Indeed, the Court squarely overruled the holding in Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167 (1961), that municipalities are not "persons" for purposes of § 1983, despite almost two decades of lower courts' reliance upon Monroe, and notwithstanding our exceptional reluctance to overrule our prior constructions of federal statutes. In a case such as this, where no square holdings have perpetuated our misapprehension of the meaning of § 1983, we should be the more willing to correct historical error.
In addition to the historical evidence of the intent of Congress and the revisers in enacting § 1983, there are weighty policy and pragmatic arguments in favor of the construction advanced by this opinion. It is by no means unusual for Congress to implement federal social programs in close cooperation with the States. The Social Security Act, which these cases allege was violated, is a good example of this pattern of cooperative federalism. If § 1983 provides a private cause of action for the infringement, under color of state law, of any federal right, then virtually every such program, together with the state officials who administer it, becomes subject to judicial oversight at the behest of a single citizen, even if such a dramatic expansion of federal-court jurisdiction never would have been countenanced when these programs were adopted. To be sure, Congress could amend or repeal § 1983, or, as MR. JUSTICE WHITE concedes, post, at 672, limit its application in particular cases. As we said in Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, supra, at 695, however, we should not "'place on the shoulders of Congress the burden of the Court's own error'" (quoting Girouard v. United States, 328 U.S. 61, 70 (1946)). That problem is avoided if § 1983 is read, as it
[ 441 U.S. Page 646]
should be, as encompassing only rights secured by the Constitution and laws providing for equal rights.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE, concurring in the judgment.
In order for there to be federal district court jurisdiction under 28 U. S. C. § 1343 (3), two requirements must be met. First, the suit must be "authorized by law," and, second, the suit must seek redress of a deprivation under color of state law of any right "secured by the Constitution of the United States or by any Act of Congress providing for equal rights . . . ."1[a] Title 42 U. S. C. § 1983 provides a cause of action for deprivations under color of state law of any right "secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States.2[a] I agree with the Court's conclusion that, even assuming the claims in these cases -- of inconsistency between state welfare practices and the Social Security Act -- are "authorized by law" because they are within the reach of § 1983, the district courts do not have jurisdiction under § 1343 (3) because the claims do not involve deprivation of constitutional rights and the Social Security Act is not a law providing for equal rights.3[a]
[ 441 U.S. Page 647]
Yet I am not able to reach this conclusion without addressing the issue the Court does not resolve: whether §§ 1983 and 1343 (3) are coextensive. Both provisions were derived from § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13,4[a] which did not contain a jurisdictional provision separate from the cause of action. Rather, the 1871 Act stated that "such proceeding" as therein authorized would "be prosecuted in the several district or circuit courts of the United States . . . ."5[a] However, for over a century -- since the general statutory revision in 1874 -- the plain terms of the cause of action and the jurisdictional provision at issue here, § 1343 (3), have not been commensurate. In order to determine with confidence
[ 441 U.S. Page 648]
the scope of rights encompassed by either provision, it is necessary, I believe, to examine the evolution of and to construe both provisions.
Certainly the issue of the reach of the § 1983 cause of action has been properly preserved for review in this Court.6[a] Throughout the history of this litigation, the aid recipients have urged that §§ 1983 and 1343 (3) are necessarily congruent, and that their claims are encompassed by both provisions.7[a] My three dissenting Brethren are of this view. On the other hand, the State of New Jersey and my Brother
[ 441 U.S. Page 649]
POWELL appear to be of the view that while the two provisions are necessarily of equal scope, neither reaches the claims in these cases. The Court, by not resolving the scope of § 1983, apparently rejects the view that the two sections are necessarily coextensive.8[a] However, it leaves open the possibility embraced by the State of New Jersey and my Brother POWELL that the claims in these cases are encompassed by neither § 1983 nor § 1343 (3).
I would and do reject this possibility. The provisions are not of equal scope: Although the suits in these cases are authorized by § 1983, they are not within the jurisdiction of the federal courts under § 1343 (3). The legislative history supports this view when approached with readiness to believe that Congress meant what the plain words it used say, as we have been taught is the proper approach to civil rights legislation originating in the post-Civil War days. See Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409, 436-437 (1968); United States v. Price, 383 U.S. 787 (1966); United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745 (1966). The conclusion that § 1983 provides a remedy for deprivations under color of state law for federal statutory as well as constitutional rights not only reflects a straightforward and natural reading of its language, but also is supported by our cases that have assumed or indicated in dicta that this is the correct construction of the provision, as well as by our decisions giving the same construction to the post-Civil War statutes criminalizing invasions of federal rights in language almost identical to that found in § 1983. On the other hand, the conclusion that § 1343 (3) encompasses only rights granted under "equal rights" statutes, in addition to constitutional rights, is compelled because of the equally plain terms of that statute and the absence of any overriding indication in the
[ 441 U.S. Page 650]
legislative history that these plain terms should be ignored. The argument of my Brother POWELL that § 1983 was intended to remedy only those rights within the "equal rights" ambit of § 1343 (3) is not at all convincing with respect to the meaning to be attached to its predecessor, § 1979 of the Revised Statutes of 1874, at the time it was adopted, much less with respect to the construction to be accorded it in the light of developments during the last century.
The first post-Civil War legislation relevant to ascertaining the meaning of §§ 1983 and 1343 (3) is the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 14 Stat. 27. Section 1 of that Act secured to all persons, with respect to specified rights, such as the right to contract, "the same right . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens." Under § 2 of the 1866 Act, deprivation of these rights under color of state law was a misdemeanor.9[a] Section 3 of the Act provided concurrent district and circuit court jurisdiction "of all causes, civil and criminal, affecting persons who are denied or cannot enforce in the courts or judicial tribunals of the State or locality where they may be any of the rights secured to them" by § 1. Section 3 also provided for removal of certain criminal and civil cases from federal court. Unlike § 2, neither § 1 nor § 3 was limited to deprivations arising
[ 441 U.S. Page 651]
under color of state law.10[a] Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., supra, at 420-437.
Because of uncertainty as to its authority under the Thirteenth Amendment to enact the foregoing provisions, Congress in §§ 16 and 17 of the Enforcement Act of 1870, 16 Stat. 144, substantially re-enacted §§ 1 and 2 of the 1866 Act pursuant to § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which had been ratified in the interim. Although § 8 of the 1870 Act provided for concurrent district and circuit court jurisdiction "of all causes, civil and criminal, arising under this act, except as herein otherwise provided," § 18 re-enacted the 1866 Act by reference and provided that §§ 16 and 17 would be enforced according to the provisions of the 1866 Act. Further, § 6 of the 1870 Act made it a crime to conspire to deny any person "any right or privilege granted or secured . . . by the Constitution or laws of the United States." In contrast to § 17 (re-enacting § 2 of the 1866 Act), which criminalized only color-of-law deprivations of the specified rights of equality guaranteed by § 16, § 6 reached " all of the rights and privileges" secured by " all of the Constitution and all of the laws of the United States." United States v. Price, supra, at 800 (emphasis in original).11[a]
Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, following the lead of the 1866 and 1870 Acts in opening the federal courts to remedy deprivations of federal rights, created a new civil remedy neither repetitive of nor entirely analogous to any of the provisions in the earlier Civil Rights Acts. Section 1 of the 1871 Act, like § 17 of the 1870 Act, provided redress only for deprivations of rights under color of state law. But whereas § 17 applied only where there was deprivation of the rights of equality secured or protected by § 16 (re-enacting § 1
[ 441 U.S. Page 652]
of the 1866 Act), the new civil remedy in the 1871 Act encompassed deprivations of "any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States."12[a] In this respect it was similar to the criminal provision provided in § 6 of the 1870 Act, which, however, encompassed invasions of any federal statutory, as well as constitutional, right. Moreover, although the new civil remedy did not reach deprivations under color-of-law of statutory rights, neither did it modify or replace remedies under the 1866 and 1870 Acts for deprivations of rights of equality specified therein, which remedies were applicable to private deprivations as well as deprivations under color of state law,13[a] see Gressman, The Unhappy History of Civil Rights Legislation, 50 Mich. L. Rev. 1323, 1326-1328 (1952).
[ 441 U.S. Page 653]
As relevant for present purposes, this was the status of civil rights legislation when the Revised Statutes of 1874 were adopted. With respect to the matters at issue here, the 1874 revision of the federal statutory law did not appreciably alter the substantive rights guaranteed or secured by the federal law. Federal constitutional rights, of course, could not have been amended by the revision. Furthermore, insofar as material to these cases, there were no substantive statutory rights newly created, modified, or eliminated.14[a] Thus, § 16 of the 1870 Act, in essence a restatement of § 1 of the 1866 Act, survived but was split into two sections of the Revised Statutes, §§ 1977 and 1979.15[a] These two sections remained a declaration of rights that all citizens in the country were to have against each other, as well as against their Government. Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409 (1968).
With respect to the remedial power of the federal courts, however, the 1874 revision effected substantial changes16[a] that are relevant to the present discussion.
[ 441 U.S. Page 654]
First, in the area of crimes, while § 6 of the 1870 Act (criminalizing private as well as color-of-law conspiracies to deprive persons of their federal constitutional or statutory rights) was retained essentially unchanged as § 5508 of the Revised Statutes, § 17 of the 1870 Act (the criminal provision originally enacted as § 2 of the 1866 Act and directed solely at deprivations under color of state law) was expanded to parallel § 5508. Section 17 had criminalized only the infringement of the specific rights of equality guaranteed by § 16 of the 1870 Act, but the new provision, § 5510 of the Revised Statutes, was "broadened to include as wide a range of rights as [§ 5508] already did: 'any rights, privileges, or immunities, secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States.' " United States v. Price, 383 U.S., at 803.
Second, the civil remedy directed solely at deprivations under color of law was likewise expanded to encompass all statutory as well as constitutional rights. Thus, whereas § 1 of the 1871 Act had provided for redress of color-of-law deprivations of rights "secured by the Constitution of the United States," § 1979 of the Revised Statutes provided a civil remedy for such deprivation of rights secured by the "Constitution and laws," the substantive federal rights protected thus mirroring those covered by §§ 5508 and 5510.17[a] As noted with respect to the widened scope of § 5510: "The substantial change thus effected was made with the customary stout assertions of the codifiers that they had merely clarified and reorganized without changing substance." United States v. Price, supra, at 803 (footnote omitted).
Third, the jurisdictional provisions of the various Civil Rights Acts were split off and consolidated in the Revised Statutes. Section 3 of the 1866 Act (re-enacted under § 18 of the 1870 Act), which provided federal jurisdiction for "all causes . . . affecting persons . . . denied" the rights now
[ 441 U.S. Page 655]
stated in §§ 1977 and 1978, was entirely deleted. The jurisdictional provision of the 1871 Act, authorizing federal courts to entertain civil suits brought pursuant thereto, became the basis for the new jurisdictional provisions in the Revised Statutes, which were stated separately for the district and circuit courts. Thus, Rev. Stat. § 563 (12) invested the district courts with jurisdiction over all civil actions -- without regard to the amount in controversy -- for any deprivation under color of state law of any rights "secured by the Constitution of the United States, or . . . by any law of the United States. . . ."18[a] This jurisdictional grant tracked the expanded remedy provided in § 1979.
With respect to the circuit courts, however, Rev. Stat. § 629 (16) provided jurisdiction over deprivation under color of state law of federal constitutional rights -- without regard to the amount in controversy -- but stopped short of encompassing suits involving violations of statutory rights, referring only to any right "secured by the Constitution of the United States, or . . . by any law providing for equal rights. . . ."19[a] Nonetheless, the circuit courts as well as the district courts were separately provided with criminal jurisdiction over cases arising under §§ 5508 and 5510, both of which reached deprivation of rights secured not only by the Constitution but by any law of the Union.20[a]
Thus, under the Revised Statutes of 1874 the federal circuit
[ 441 U.S. Page 656]
courts were not empowered to entertain certain categories of suits brought to vindicate federal statutory rights against state invasion. Of course, at this time neither the district nor circuit courts had been granted general federal-question jurisdiction; rather, they existed to deal with diversity cases and suits in specialized areas of federal law such as federal criminal prosecutions, civil suits by the United States, and civil rights cases. In 1875, however, Congress extended to the circuit courts original jurisdiction, concurrent with the courts of the several States, "of all suits of a civil nature at common law or in equity, where the matter in dispute exceeds, exclusive of costs, the sum or value of five hundred dollars, and arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States, or treaties made. . . ." Act of Mar. 3, 1875, 18 Stat. 470.21[a] Thereafter, on the face of the statutes, the circuit courts had original jurisdiction, if the jurisdictional amount was satisfied, over any suit arising under the Constitution or any law of the United States, as well as jurisdiction, without regard to the amount in controversy, of any case involving a color-of-state-law deprivation of any constitutional right or any right secured by law providing
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for equal rights.22[a] The district courts had no general "arising under" jurisdiction but retained their original jurisdiction over suits alleging deprivation under color of state law of any right secured either by the Constitution or by any law of the United States, without regard to the amount in controversy.
With the adoption of the 1911 Judicial Code, the circuit courts were abolished, and the district courts became the sole federal courts of first instance. The principal elements of the district court's jurisdiction included diversity cases involving in excess of $3,000,23[a] all cases arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States involving in excess of $3,000,24[a] all criminal offenses under the federal laws -- including those arising under Rev. Stat. §§ 5508 and 551025[a] -- and a series of specialized types of federal-law cases having no amount-in-controversy requirement.26[a] Included in this latter category was § 24 (14), which provided jurisdiction for all suits at law or in equity to redress deprivation under color of state law "of any right, privilege, or immunity, secured by the Constitution of the United States, or of any right secured by any law of the United States providing for equal rights of citizens of the United States, or of all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States." With minor changes in wording, this provision is now codified at 28 U. S. C. § 1343 (3).
The language of Rev. Stat. § 1979 (now codified at 42 U. S. C. § 1983) remained unchanged, providing a federal
[ 441 U.S. Page 658]
cause of action for color-of-law deprivations of any right "secured by the Constitution and laws." On the face of the jurisdictional statutes, then, it would appear that after 1911 § 1983 cases could be brought in federal court under general federal-question jurisdiction if they involved the necessary amount in controversy; otherwise, they could be entertained in federal court only if they sought redress for deprivation of a constitutional right or of a right under a federal statute providing for equal rights.
Having examined the context in which the foregoing statutory developments occurred, I agree with the Court that there is nothing in the relevant provisions or in their history that should lead us to conclude that Congress did not mean what it said in defining the jurisdiction of the circuit and district courts in 1874 or, much less, that in adopting the Judicial Code in 1911, Congress meant the language "any law of the United States providing for equal rights" to mean "any law of the United States."
By the same token, I also conclude that nothing in the history and evolution of § 1983 leads to the conclusion that Congress did not mean what it said in 1874 in describing the rights protected as including those secured by federal "laws" as well as by the "Constitution." I am, therefore, not disposed to repudiate the view repeatedly stated in previous cases that § 1983 encompasses federal statutory as well as constitutional entitlements. Although the Court has not previously given extended consideration to the scope of the rights protected by § 1983,27[a] our acceptance of the plain terms of that statute and
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analogous criminal proscriptions has been consistent, and for over a century Congress has not acted to rectify any purported error in our construction of these provisions.
Until today, we have expressly declined, most recently in Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 533-535, n. 5 (1974),28[a] to indicate whether Social Security Act claims based solely on alleged inconsistency between state and federal law might be
[ 441 U.S. Page 660]
within the jurisdiction of the federal courts under § 1343. But we have not doubted the propriety of challenging under the "and laws" provision of § 1983 state action involving deprivation of federal statutory rights. On the very day the jurisdictional issue was reserved in Hagans, the Court stated in Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 675 (1974):
"It is, of course, true that Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397 (1970), held that suits in federal court under § 1983 are proper to secure compliance with the provisions of the Social Security Act on the part of participating States."
And in Greenwood v. Peacock, 384 U.S. 808, 829-830 (1966), the Court noted that "[under] 42 U. S. C. § 1983 (1964 ed.) the [state] officers may be made to respond in damages not only for violations of rights covered by federal equal civil rights laws, but for violations of other federal constitutional and statutory rights as well." Other dicta recognizing that § 1983 encompasses statutory federal rights are found in Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 700-701 (1978);29[a] Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225, 239-240, n. 30 (1972);*fn30 Lynch v. Household Finance Corp., 405 U.S. 538, 543 n. 7 (1972);*fn31 and Hague v. CIO, 307 U.S. 496, 525-526 (1939) (opinion of Stone, J.).*fn32
Under the holding in Hagans, supra, at 536, that a federal court has power to hear a pendent claim based on the Social
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Security Act when a substantial constitutional claim is also raised,*fn33 a cause of action for the pendent statutory claim must still be "authorized by law" in order for the claim to be cognizable in federal court under § 1343. That cause of action in Hagans, as in previous decisions of this Court that have reviewed the statutory claim, was provided by § 1983.
Likewise, our previous cases construing Rev. Stat. § 5508 (now 18 U. S. C. § 241) and Rev. Stat. § 5510 (now 18 U. S. C. § 242) -- each of which describes the rights protected in language nearly identical to that used in § *fn198334 -- leave no doubt that federal statutory as well as constitutional entitlements are encompassed thereby.
One of the first cases*fn35 construing what is now § 241 held that the rights "secured by the Constitution or laws" included homesteading rights granted in §§ 2289-2291 of the Revised Statutes. United States v. Waddell, 112 U.S. 76 (1884).*fn36 In
[ 441 U.S. Page 662]
must be deemed to have "dealt with Federal rights and with all Federal rights, and [to have] protected them in the lump." United States v. Mosley, supra, at 387. There can be "no basis whatsoever for a judgment of Solomon which would give to the statute less than its words command." United States v. Price, supra, at 803.
It is earnestly argued, however, that 42 U. S. C. § 1983, formerly Rev. Stat. § 1979, and 18 U. S. C. § 242, formerly Rev. Stat. § 5510, should be read as protecting against deprivation under color of state law only constitutional rights and rights granted under federal "equal rights" statutes. A corollary of this argument is that, although in 1874 Congress expressly invested the district courts with jurisdiction over all civil cases involving state interference with any right secured by the Constitution or by any federal law, see Rev. Stat. § 563 (12), Congress actually meant to refer, in addition to the Constitution, only to equal rights laws.
To the extent that these arguments are rooted in the notion that the 1866 Civil Rights Act provided the outer limits of the federal civil rights effort in the post-Civil War years, and thus implicitly limits the reach and scope of the relevant portions of the 1870 and 1871 Acts, they are quite unpersuasive. The 1870 Act, it is true, re-enacted the 1866 Act, but it also provided its own unique approaches, such as that adopted in § 6, proscribing private or public conspiracies interfering not merely with the specific rights of equality cataloged in § 1 of the 1866 Act, but with any right secured by federal constitutional or statutory law. Similarly, it cannot be supposed that in § 1 of the 1871 Act, Congress was merely granting a private cause of action for vindicating rights of equality with respect to enumerated activities within state legislative power, secured by § 1 of the 1866 Act, re-enacted as § 16 of the 1870 Act. The 1871 provision granted a remedy and jurisdiction in the federal courts to protect against state invasions of any and all constitutional rights; and whereas
[ 441 U.S. Page 664]
this cause of action applied only to invasions under color of state law, the earlier provisions applied as against private persons as well, with federal jurisdiction to hear "all causes . . . affecting persons" denied the specific, enumerated rights. Thus, the very limiting construction urged of the term "and laws" as used in the Revised Statutes of 1874 cannot withstand scrutiny if predicated upon the proposition that the sole concern of the post-Civil War enactments was with vindicating particular rights of equality.
The more specific basis for the argument that the scope of § 1983 should be narrowed to less than its plain terms relates to the grant of civil rights jurisdiction to the circuit courts in the Revised Statutes. It is asserted that just as Congress limited the jurisdiction of those courts to suits involving constitutional rights or statutory rights secured in "equal rights" statutes, it intended likewise to confine the jurisdiction of the district courts under § 563 (12), the remedy provided by § 1979, and the criminal proscriptions in § 5510. However, the marginal notes and cross-references in the Revised Statutes for each of these provisions are as broad as the plain terms of the statutes themselves,*fn39 and at least as to the civil cause of action and criminal proscription against deprivation under color of state law, we know that the alteration in
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terms was noted on the floor of the Congress that enacted the Revised Statutes.*fn40 In fact, the marginal notations, as well as the entire statutory scheme, indicate that if an error was made at some point, it was not in the drafting of § 563 (12), § 1979, or § 5510, all of which employed broad terminology reaching federal statutes, but in the drafting of the circuit court provision. The marginal notation in the Revised Statutes for § 629 (16), like that for the district court provision, refers to "Suits to redress deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution and laws . . ."*fn41 (emphasis added), the language of §§ 1979 and 5510.
Nor do I find as unambiguous and as persuasive as does my Brother POWELL the commentary of the revisers published in 1872 in connection with the anticipated definition of the circuit court's jurisdiction. 1 Revision of the United States Statutes as Drafted by the Commissioners Appointed for that Purpose 359-363 (1872) (hereinafter Draft). The revisers went to some length to explain their deletion of the jurisdictional language used in § 3 of the 1866 Act (re-enacted by reference
[ 441 U.S. Page 666]
in § 18 of the 1870 Act). The provision, in granting jurisdiction for "all causes, civil and criminal, affecting persons" denied rights, appeared, according to the revisers, to "allow every person who is denied any civil right in the courts of his own State to invoke the judicial power of the United States in every kind of controversy . . . ." 1 Draft 362. The revisers explained that a literal interpretation of such language "would involve consequences which Congress cannot be supposed to have intended . . . ," id., at 361, and further questioned whether such a broad grant of jurisdiction was even within the limitations of Art. III, § 2, of the Constitution, which, they noted, extended federal judicial power only to cases "arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties . . . ." 1 Draft 362 (emphasis in original). Thus, instead of using the jurisdictional language in § 3 of the 1866 Act, the revisers decided to track the language in § 1 of the 1871 Act, which provided jurisdiction only for suits involving "deprivation" of rights, rather than for all suits involving persons denied rights.
However, the revisers drafting the circuit court provision were not working from the new, and expanded, cause of action provided in § 1979, but from § 1 of the 1871 Act, which, they pointed out, referred to deprivation of rights "secured by the Constitution of the United States." 1 Draft 362 (emphasis in original). If this language were transferred verbatim to the new circuit court jurisdictional provision, "it might perhaps be held that only such rights as are specifically secured by the Constitution, and not every right secured by a law authorized by the Constitution, were here intended . . . ." Ibid. Thus, the revisers thought it advisable -- "deemed safer" -- to include "a reference to the civil-rights act." My Brother POWELL is able to conclude from the foregoing*fn42 that
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the only statutory rights the revisers had in mind -- in §§ 1979 and 5510, as well as in the district and circuit court jurisdictional provisions -- were those catalogued in § 16 of the 1870 Act, essentially a re-enactment of § 1 of the 1866 Act.
Beyond the most obvious and overriding difficulty with this approach to statutory construction -- whereby the plain terms of three statutes are ignored on the basis of the revisers' commentary to a fourth and apparently inconsistent provision -- there are several more technical problems with my Brother POWELL's approach. First, the reference ultimately included in the circuit court provision was not to § 16 of the 1870 Act, but to "any law providing for equal rights . . . ," a far broader reference than necessary to achieve what those writing the commentary apparently intended to achieve.
Second, if the revisers' comment is to be taken at face value, they must be held to have assumed that "every right secured by a law authorized by the Constitution" was secured by an "equal rights" statute, or even more incredibly, by § 16 of the 1870 Act. But surely my Brother POWELL cannot be suggesting that the Constitution is so limited, and such a narrow view of the constitutional rights protected by § 1983 has been firmly rejected by this Court.*fn43
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Third, if the revisers likewise intended only to accommodate the 1866 and 1870 Acts in the district court jurisdictional provision, § 563 (12), referring to rights secured by "any law of the United States" was a most peculiar and clumsy way of doing so.*fn44
Fourth, if, as does indeed appear from the comment relied upon, it was the revisers' objective at least to provide jurisdiction for all suits alleging deprivation of the specific rights guaranteed in the 1866 and 1870 Acts, they failed in that attempt. Whereas § 3 of the 1866 Act had provided jurisdiction for suits alleging private, as well as color-of-law, deprivation of the rights enumerated, both § 629 (16) and § 563 (12), like § 1979, were limited to deprivations under color of state law.*fn45
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In view of the foregoing ambiguities, contradictions, and uncertainties, there is no satisfactory basis for overriding the clear terms of the Revised Statutes. The "customary stout assertions" of the revisers notwithstanding, it is abundantly obvious that the 1874 revision did change the terms of certain remedial and jurisdictional provisions. Congress was well aware of the broadened scope of § 1 of the 1871 Civil Rights Act as redrafted in the Revised Statutes. And, for whatever reason, the limiting words in the circuit court jurisdictional provision were accepted and enacted by Congress; if there was a slip of the pen, it is more arguable that the mistake occurred here.*fn46
Almost immediately, however, the circuit courts were given general federal-question jurisdiction, and in "codifying, revising, and amending" the laws relating to the judiciary in 1911,*fn47 there is no indication whatsoever that Congress acted in less than a knowing and deliberate way in confining the jurisdiction of the district courts -- where the amount-in-controversy
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requirement was not met -- to those color-of-law deprivations of rights secured by the Constitution or federal equal rights statutes.*fn48 The result is that since 1911, there have been some § 1983 suits not cognizable under § 1343 (3) and not cognizable in district court at all unless they involve the requisite jurisdictional amount under general federal-question jurisdiction. The effect of this amount-in-controversy prerequisite was and is to bar from the lower federal courts not only certain claims against state officers but also many private causes of actions not involving injury under color of law. Whatever the wisdom of precluding resolution of all federal-question cases in the federal courts -- rather than leaving some of them to decision in the state courts (a course of action possibly in the process of being reversed by Congress)*fn49 -- the uneven effect of this policy does not warrant refusal to recognize and apply the clear limiting language of § 1343 (3). Cf. District of Columbia v. Carter, 409 U.S. 418 (1973).
The foregoing examination of the evolution of §§ 1983 and 1343 (3) demonstrates to my satisfaction that the two provisions cannot be read as though they were but one statute.*fn50
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The manifest object of the Reconstruction Congress to provide a private remedy for deprivation under color of state law of federal rights is one reason I am disposed to give no less than full credit to the language of § 1983. However, this conclusion that federal statutory claims are appropriately brought under § 1983 does not proceed to any extent from the notion that this statute, by its terms or as perceived when enacted, "[secures]" rights or "[provides] for equal rights," in the language of § 1343 (3). Title 42 U. S. C. §§ 1981 and 1982, derived from § 1 of the 1866 Civil Rights Act and codified at §§ 1977 and 1978 of the Revised Statutes, enunciate certain rights and state that they are to be enjoyed on the same basis by all persons. Thus, these statutes both secure rights and provide for equal rights, whereas § 1983, derived from § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, provides only a cause of action -- a remedy -- for violations of federally protected rights.
Perhaps it could be said that the very process of judicial redress for deprivation of rights "secures" such rights and
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"provides" that they shall be "equal" in the sense that they shall be enjoyed by all persons. I agree that without processes for their enforcement, the rights guaranteed in the Constitution and in federal statutes may not be fully realized. Further, provision of remedies for denial of rights to some persons is essential to realization of these rights for all persons. However, a remedy -- a cause of action without more -- guarantees neither equality nor underlying rights. It is, rather, a process for enforcing rights elsewhere guaranteed. The substantive scope of the rights which may be the basis for a cause of action within § 1343 (3) jurisdiction is limited to the Constitution and those federal statutes that guarantee equality of rights. The substantive scope of the rights which may be protected and vindicated under § 1983 against contrary state action, on the other hand, includes not only federal constitutional rights but also all rights secured by federal statutes unless there is clear indication in a particular statute that its remedial provisions are exclusive or that for various other reasons a § 1983 action is inconsistent with congressional intention.
MR. JUSTICE STEWART, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL join,*fn* dissenting.
My disagreement with the opinion and judgment of the Court in these cases is narrow but dispositive. Because 28 U. S. C. § 1343 (3) refers to "any Act of Congress providing for equal rights," because 42 U. S. C. § 1983 is such an Act of Congress, and because § 1983 by its terms clearly covers lawsuits such as the ones here involved, I would hold that the plaintiffs properly brought these cases in Federal District Court.1[b]
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First of all, it seems to me clear that this Court has already settled the question whether § 1983 creates a cause of action for these plaintiffs. We have explicitly recognized that the case of " Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397 (1970), held that suits in federal court under § 1983 are proper to secure compliance with the provisions of the Social Security Act on the part of participating States." Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 675.2[b] And a long line of this Court's cases necessarily stands for that proposition. Miller v. Youakim, 440 U.S. 125; Quern v. Mandley, 436 U.S. 725; Van Lare v. Hurley, 421 U.S. 338; Edelman v. Jordan, supra; Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528; Carleson v. Remillard, 406 U.S. 598; Jefferson v. Hackney, 406 U.S. 535; Carter v. Stanton, 405 U.S. 669; Townsend v. Swank, 404 U.S. 282; California Dept. of Human Resources v. Java, 402 U.S. 121; Dandridge v.
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for equal rights" found in § 629 (16) served to identify the sections of the Civil Rights Title which involved rights enforceable through civil actions.
The Court's reasoning to the contrary seems to rely solely on the fact that § 1983 does not create any rights. Section 1343 (3) does not require, however, that the Act create rights. Nor does it require that the Act "provide" them. It refers to any Act of Congress that provides "for" equal rights. Section 1983 provides for rights when it creates a cause of action for deprivation of those rights under color of state law. It is, therefore, one of the statutes for which § 1343 (3), by its terms, confers jurisdiction upon the federal district courts.
Today's decision may not have a great effect on the scope of federal jurisdiction. If the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000, any plaintiff raising a federal question may bring an action in federal court under 28 U. S. C. § 1331 (a). Many other sections of Title 28 confer jurisdiction upon the federal courts over statutory questions without any requirement that a monetary minimum be in controversy. See, e. g., 28 U. S. C. § 1333 (admiralty and maritime jurisdiction); 28 U. S. C. § 1334 (bankruptcy); 28 U. S. C. § 1337 (Acts of Congress regulating commerce). Still other plaintiffs will find their way into the federal courts through jurisdictional provisions codified with the substantive law, and not incorporated in Title 28. See, e. g., 12 U. S. C. § 2614 (Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974); 15 U. S. C. § 1640 (e) (Truth in Lending Act); 42 U. S. C. § 7604 (1976 ed., Supp. I) (Clean Air Act). Finally, even a welfare recipient with a federal statutory claim may sue in a federal court if his lawyer can link this claim to a substantial constitutional contention. And under the standard of substantiality established by Hagans v. Lavine, supra, such a constitutional claim would not be hard to construct.
But to sacrifice even one lawsuit to the Court's cramped reading of 28 U. S. C. § 1343 (3) is to deprive a plaintiff of a
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federal forum without justification in the language or history of the law.
I respectfully dissent.
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL believe that the issue discussed in footnote 2 of this dissenting opinion need not be addressed in this case. They therefore express no view of the merits of that particular question.