Petitioner sued Respondent under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after he was terminated without a hearing. Respondent argued he was protected by qualified immunity and filed a motion to dismiss.
In the initial pleading for a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff does not need to allege bad faith on the part of the defendant in order to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Carlos Gomez (Petitioner) was discharged without a hearing from his position as an agent with the Puerto Rican Police Department after he told his supervisor and testified to the fact that two agents had falsified evidence in a criminal investigation. Petitioner brought a §1983 claim against the Superintendent of the Police of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Respondent), claiming he was discharged without due process, causing him anxiety, embarrassment, and injury to his reputation. Respondent argued he was protected by qualified immunity, filed a motion to dismiss.
When bringing a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, must a plaintiff plead that the defendant acted in bad faith?
No, the plaintiff does not have to plead bad faith as part of a claim under § 1983. The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed and remanded.
Justice Rehnquist agreed with the opinion, noting that it did not determine burden of persuasion, only the burden of pleading.
The Court found that qualified immunity was an affirmative defense and not part of the elements of a § 1983 claim. While the Petitioner had the burden of pleadings the two elements necessary under § 1983, it was up to the Respondent to plead the elements of qualified immunity, including a lack of bad faith.