Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Federal civil rights violations and statute of limitations

What is the limitations period for Section 1983 and 1985 claims? 

"Although there is no federal statute of limitations for civil rights violations alleged under [section] 1983, `courts construing [section] 1983 "borrow" the forum state's general personal injury limitations period.'" Bell v. Children's Protective Servs., 547 Fed. Appx. 453, 456 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Rotella v. Pederson, 144 F.3d 892, 897 (5th Cir. 1998) (internal citations omitted)); Moore v. McDonald, 30 F.3d 616, 620 (5th Cir. 1994); see Prado v. City of Fredericksburg Police Dept., No. A-12-CA-123-LY, 2012 WL 566440, at *2 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 21, 2012), subsequently dism'd, 515 Fed. Appx. 262 (5th Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 134 S. Ct. 218 (U.S. 2013). "While state law determines the statute of limitations, federal law controls when a cause of action accrues, and it begins to run `from the moment the plaintiff becomes aware that he has suffered an injury or has sufficient information to know that he has been injured.'" Bell, 547 Fed. Appx. at 456 (quoting Helton v. Clements, 832 F.2d 332, 334-35 (5th Cir. 1987)). Texas's general personal injury limitations period is two years. Id. (citing TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 16.003(a) (West, Westlaw through 2013 3d C.S.)).

Section 1985 of United States Code tile 42 provides a civil remedy to citizens who have been deprived of federally guaranteed rights by conspirators acting under "color of law." Great Am. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Novotny, 442 U.S. 366, 371 (1979); see Taylor v. Anderson, No. A-13-CV-464-LY, 2014 WL 547032, at *3 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 10, 2014). As with civil rights claims brought under section 1983, to determine the applicable statute of limitations period for civil rights actions brought under section 1985, we look to the "general statute of limitations governing personal injuries in the forum state." Price v. City of San Antonio, Tex., 431 F.3d 890, 892 (5th Cir. 2005); Helton v. Clements, 832 F.2d 332, 334 (5th Cir. 1987). Under Texas law, civil rights actions brought under section 1985 "are deemed analogous to Texas tort actions" and are subject to a limitations period of two years. Helton, 832 F.2d at 334; see Anderson, 2014 WL 547032, at *4; see also TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 16.003(a).

Section 1986 assesses liability against persons who have knowledge of conspiracies listed in section 1985 and neglect or refuse to prevent such conspiracies. See 42 U.S.C.A. § 1986. Section 1986 claims are subject to a one-year statute of limitations. Id.

SOURCE: Corpus Christi Court of Appeals. - No. 13-13-00378-CV - June 19, 2014