Section 1983, which plays such a large part in our story, provides that persons who act under state law and subject others to the deprivation of federal rights shall be liable not only for injunctive relief but damages as well. In theory, together with its jurisdictional counterpart, that law opened the federal courts to damage suits against state and local officials who were depriving others of rights protected by the U.S. Constitution or by federal laws. In fact, for reasons discussed in chapter 2, Section 1983 lay dormant for years and its impact was rather insignificant. One commentator found only twenty-one lawsuits brought under Section 1983 between 1871 and 1920.1 In the wake of Brown v. Board of Education, however, Section 1983 emerged as the vehicle for obtaining federal court injunctions against unconstitutional state conduct. So too, it eventually emerged as the principal vehicle for recovering damages in federal court lawsuits against state officials who violate the Constitution.
The watershed with respect to damage remedies was the Supreme Court's 1961 decision in Monroe v. Pape.2 That lawsuit was brought in federal court against the city of Chicago and individual Chicago police officers who broke into the Monroe home, routed the family from their beds, made them stand naked, and ransacked every room. Mr. Monroe was then taken to the police station and detained for ten hours while he was ques-