Goldstein v. City of Long Beach

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 05-08-2013
  • Case #: 10-56787
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Thomas for the court; Circuit Judge Reinhardt concurring
  • Full Text Opinion

When a district attorney implements procedures related to inmate informants they are acting as a final policy maker for the county and can therefore be held liable to 42 U.S.C.§ 1983.

Thomas Goldstein was released from prison after 24 years for murder because his conviction was largely based on perjured testimony by Fink, another inmate. Goldstein brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that it could have made a difference if the prosecution had informed his lawyer about the rewards that Fink was receiving for a favorable testimony. The United States Supreme Court previously determined that the district attorney and the chief deputy district attorney were absolutely immune from Goldstein’s claims. The district court, on remand, granted the County’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. Under § 1983, a local government may be liable for constitutional torts committed by its officials according to municipal policy, practice or custom. To establish a claim, the plaintiff must first establish that the official had final policymaking authority in relation to action at issue and was the policy maker for the local governing body for purposes of the particular act. The panel considered whether the Los Angeles County District Attorney had acted as a policy maker for the state or for the county, to determine their liability under § 1983. The panel looked at relevant California constitutional and statutory provisions and a 1986 amendment which added District Attorneys to the list of county officials in making their determination. The Ninth Circuit held that when establishing policies related to the use of inmate informants, the Los Angeles County District Attorney represents the county they are acting within. Because the policies challenged by Goldstein, those related to the use of inmate informants, are administrative and not purely prosecutorial, they are different than those acts that the district attorney does on behalf of the state. Therefore, the county may be held liable under §1983. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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