Governmental Entity Liability Under Section 1983

In Corum v. University of N.C., 330 N.C. 761, 413 S.E.2d 276, cert. denied, 506 U.S. 985, 121 L. Ed. 2d 431, 113 S. Ct. 493 (1992), the Court correctly relied on Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 105 L. Ed. 2d 45, 109 S. Ct. 2304 (1989), in holding that the State of North Carolina and its agencies are not "persons" within the meaning of section 1983 and therefore could not be sued for monetary damages under that statute. The United States Supreme Court, in Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978), overruled Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 5 L. Ed. 2d 492, 81 S. Ct. 473 (1961), and held that a municipality is a "person" within the meaning of section 1983. The United States Supreme Court stated: "Our analysis of the legislative history of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 compels the conclusion that Congress did intend municipalities and other local government units to be included among those persons to whom 1983 applies." Monell, 436 U.S. at 690, 56 L. Ed. 2d at 635. Monell did not, however, overrule Monroe insofar as Monroe held that the doctrine of respondeat superior is not a basis for rendering municipalities liable under section 1983 for constitutional torts of their employees. Id. at 663 n.7, 56 L. Ed. 2d at 619 n.7. Instead, "local governing bodies . . . can be sued directly under 1983 for monetary, declaratory, or injunctive relief where . . . the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body's officers." Id. at 690, 56 L. Ed. 2d at 635. This decision was recently reaffirmed in Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 122 L. Ed. 2d 517, 113 S. Ct. 1160 (1993). For a governmental entity to be liable under section 1983, the "official policy must be 'the moving force of the constitutional violation.'" Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 326, 70 L. Ed. 2d 509, 521, 102 S. Ct. 445 (1981) (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 694, 56 L. Ed. 2d at 638). Thus, the entity's "policy or custom" must have played a part in the violation of federal law. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694, 56 L. Ed. 2d at 638. Further, it is well settled that a municipal entity has no claim to immunity in a section 1983 suit. See Owen v. City of Independence, 445 U.S. at 657, 63 L. Ed. 2d at 697.