Owen v. City of Independence

RESPONDENT:City of Independence
LOCATION:E.L. Aaron & Co., Inc.

DOCKET NO.: 78-1779
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 445 US 622 (1980)
ARGUED: Jan 08, 1980
DECIDED: Apr 16, 1980

Irving Achtenberg – for petitioner
Richard G. Carlisle – for respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Owen v. City of Independence

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 08, 1980 in Owen v. City of Independence

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 16, 1980 in Owen v. City of Independence

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Owen against the City of Independence will be announced by Mr. Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

This case is here from the Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit.

The respondent, City of Independence, Missouri discharged its Chief of Police.

The Court of Appeals found that the acts of the officials involved in effecting the discharge were taken pursuant to official city policy and constituted a depravation by the city of a constitutionally protected liberty interest of the Police Chief giving rise to a cause of action in his favor against the city and its officials under 42 United States Code Section 1983.

However, the Court of Appeals held further that the Chief of Police must be denied any relief against either the city or its officials because the officials acted in good faith and without malice.

In that circumstance the Court of Appeals held a qualified immunity from liability was enjoyed not only by the officials but also by the city.

We agree with the Court of Appeals that the public officials, individually, enjoyed a qualified immunity but we reversed the judgment that the city also enjoyed a like immunity.

We hold that a municipality has no immunity from liability under Section 1983 flowing from its constitutional violations and may not assert the good faith of its officers as a defense to such liability.

Our reasons were differing between the city and its officials in this matter of immunity are stated at length in an opinion filed today with the clerk.

Mr. Justice Powell has filed a dissenting opinion in which he is joined by the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Stewart and Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Brennan.