Rumery (defendant) was arrested and charged with tampering with a witness. Rumery’s attorney reached an agreement with the county attorney whereby Rumery would agree not to sue the town and the charges against Rumery would be dropped. Rumery signed the release-dismissal agreement. Ten months later, Rumery sued the town of Newton under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his constitutional rights by arresting, defaming, and falsely imprisoning him. Section 1983 is a federal law that allows an individual to sue state officials for violating his constitutional rights while acting under “color” of state law. The town of Newton moved to dismiss the charges and asserted the release-dismissal agreement as an affirmative defense. Rumery claimed that the release-dismissal agreement was against public policy and therefore unenforceable. The court rejected his argument, holding that the release-dismissal agreement was valid if it was the result of a voluntary, informed decision. Rumery appealed. The appellate court reversed and held that release-dismissal agreements were invalid per se. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.