Robertson v. Wegmann

436 U.S. 584 (1978)

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Robertson v. Wegmann

United States Supreme Court
436 U.S. 584 (1978)

  • Written by Whitney Kamerzel , JD

Facts

Clay Shaw (plaintiff) was arrested and tried in Louisiana state court for conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. Shaw was acquitted by a jury, but he was soon arrested again on perjury charges. Shaw sued the district attorney (defendant) in federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the perjury charges were made in bad faith. Before trial, however, Shaw died in a way that was unrelated to his alleged deprivation of rights. The executor of Shaw’s estate substituted himself in Shaw’s place in the lawsuit. The district attorney moved to dismiss the case because Louisiana law permitted only close relatives, and not an estate’s executor, to pursue § 1983 claims upon a plaintiff’s death. The district court denied the motion, holding the Louisiana law was inconsistent with federal law. Instead, the district court created a federal common-law rule that allowed all § 1983 suits to continue after a plaintiff’s death. The court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)

Dissent (Blackmun, J.)

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