Gomez v. Toledo Case Brief

Summary of Gomez v Toledo
446 U S 635 [1980]


Relevant Facts: Pet Gomez was employed as an agent w/ the Puerto Rico Police Dept. Upon learning that two other officers had provided false information in a criminal proceeding he was discharged by Res Superintendent of Police Toledo. As a result of filing the report Pet was transferred to the Police Academy holding a position of lesser significance. Res ordered an investigation which proved the Pet’s claims as valid. Pet testified at trial to his assertions, and thereafter the Res had criminal charges brought against Pet. Pet was acquitted and then sought reinstatement with the force w/ back pay.

Legal Issue(s): Whether in an action under 42 USC 1983, against a public official whose position might entitled him to qualified immunity, a Pl must allege that the official acted in bad faith in order to state a claim for relief, or alternatively, whether the Df must plead good faith affirmatively?

Court’s Holding: No Pl does not have to allege bad faith, but b/c good faith is a defense the Res must plead it affirmatively.

Procedure: D. Ct granted Res motion under Rule 12 (b) (6); Ct of App Affirmed; S. Ct R and R

Law or Rule(s): 1983 provides that the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws thereunder by any person acting under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory is actionable.

Court Rationale: In limited circumstances public officers are entitled to qualified immunity from damage liability under 1983. A police officer would be excused from liability for acting under a statute that he reasonably believed to be valid but that was later held unconstitutional, on its face or as applied. Nothing in the language of 1983 suggests that in an action against a public official whose position might entitled him to immunity if he acted in GF, a Pl must allege Bad Faith in order to state a claim for relief. By the plain terms of 1983 (2) two and only two allegations are required in order to state a cause of action under that statute. First, Pl must allege that some person has deprived him of a federal right. Second, he must allege that the person who has deprived him of said right acted under color of state or territorial law. Pet has made both of the required allegations.

Plaintiff’s Argument: Respondent denied Petitioner his right to procedural due process, and that Respondent did so while acting under color of Puerto Rican Law.

Defendant’s Argument: Respondent acted in good faith in reasonably believing the act of terminating the Petitioner were done so lawfully.

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