A legal term of art in civil rights actions, color of law refers to conduct of persons who have the authority to act for the government or who act as though they have the authority to act for the government. A private individual who denies a person’s civil rights is not considered an action of the government and, therefore, cannot properly be a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit.
The Supreme Court has clarified what color of law is: “It is clear that under ‘color’ of law means under ‘pretense’ of law…Acts of officers who undertake to perform their official duties are included whether they hew to the line of their authority or overstep it.”Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91, 111 (1945).
Moreover, a public official who is acting wholly within his private capacity is outside of
conduct considered within the color of law.See, e.g., Martinez v. Colon, 54 F.3d 980, 986 (1st Cir. 1996)(“Absent any actual or purported relationship between the officer’s conduct and his duties as a police officer, the officer cannot be … Continue reading
© 2022 Ralph D. Davis