This law is the primary means by which a person can bring a violation of a constitutional right. To prevail in a claim under section 1983, the plaintiff must meet two elements: a person subjected the plaintiff to conduct that occurred under color of state law, and this conduct deprived the plaintiff of rights, privileges, or immunities guaranteed under federal law or the U.S. Constitution. The statute provides immunity for persons operating under "color of law" acting in their official capacities.
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.
(R.S. § 1979; Pub.L. 96-170, § 1, Dec. 29, 1979, 93 Stat. 1284; Pub.L. 104-317, Title III, § 309(c), Oct. 19, 1996, 110 Stat. 3853.)