Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona

In Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43 (1997), the United States Supreme Court considered a mootness claim in an Arizona state employee's First Amendment challenge under 42 U.S.C. 1983 to Arizona's state constitutional provision declaring English to be the official state language for all government functions and actions. The state employee sought injunctive and declaratory relief, counsel fees, and "'all other relief that the Court deems just and proper under the circumstances.'" Arizonans, 520 U.S. at 50-51. After the state employee voluntarily quit her job and became employed in the private sector where her speech was not governed by the state constitutional provision, the lower courts decided her claim for "'all other relief that the Court deems just and proper'" justified an award of $ 1 in nominal damages against the state and precluded a mootness determination. The United States Supreme Court said the former state employee's claim for nominal damages did not lie against the state, because states are not amenable to suits for damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Arizonans, 520 U.S. at 69, citing Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, (1989). The Supreme Court said a "claim for nominal damages, extracted late in the day from the plaintiff's general prayer for relief and asserted solely to avoid otherwise certain mootness, bore close inspection," and held the case was moot because the employee had voluntarily quit her state job and her damage claim was nonexistent. Arizonans, at 71-72.