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O'Shea v. Littleton

United States Supreme Court
414 U.S. 488 (1974)


Nineteen individual citizens (plaintiffs) filed a civil rights class-action suit seeking injunctive relief against various government officials of Cairo, Illinois, including a judge and a magistrate (defendants). The district court complaint alleged a historical and continuing pattern of discriminatory law enforcement against African Americans. The allegations against the judge and magistrate involved racial discrimination in determining bail bonds, sentencing, and jury-fee practices. The complaint gave examples of alleged misconduct against certain state officials, but made only general allegations against the judge and magistrate. The relief sought was an injunction to prevent defendants from depriving class members of their constitutional rights in the future. The district court dismissed the case, based partly on a lack of jurisdiction to award the injunctive relief requested. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that if plaintiffs were able to prove their allegations, the district court should grant an injunction to prevent the judge and magistrate from future violations. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)

Concurrence (Blackmun, J.)

Dissent (Douglas, J.)

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