State Action

State Action in the United States

A requirement that limits application of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to situations where discriminatory conduct occurs under state authority. The state action requirement was first established by the Supreme Court in the Civil Rights Cases (109 U.S. 3: 1883). It placed private discrimination outside the reach of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court held that the Amendment was intended to provide relief against state enactments rather than to empower Congress to “legislate upon subjects which are within the domain of state legislation” or “create a code of municipal law for the regulation of private rights.” See also Civil Rights (Judicial Effects and Policies) Equal Protection (Judicial Effects and Policies).

Analysis and Relevance

State action requires a judgment about whether certain kinds of conduct occur under color of state law. A court must determine if discriminatory action is situated closely enough to state authority to be treated as though it were an overt act of the state. A sufficient nexus between challenged action and state authority is generally not difficult to demonstrate, although some private discrimination remains insulated from regulation. While softening the distinctions between private and state-authorized discrimination, thus expanding the reach of the Equal Protection Clause, recent cases have required that discriminatory intent must be shown in addition to injurious impact in order to establish a constitutional violation.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of State Action from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

State Action in the United States

State Action

United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled STATE ACTIONThe phrase “state action,” a term of art in our constitutional law, symbolizes the rule-or supposed rule-that constitutional guarantees of human rights are effective only against governmental action impairing those rights. (The word “state,” in the phrase, denotes any unit or element of
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State Action

United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled STATE ACTION America’s federal constitutional system generally protects individual rights only against violation by the national and state governments, their agencies, and officials. State action doctrine limits the scope of constitutional rights guarantees. If a state police officer
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state action Background

State Action: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about State Action. This part provides references, in relation to State Action, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about State Action by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about State Action and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about State Action or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to State Action and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting State Action. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about State Action should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to State Action when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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