Supreme Court Preserves Civil Rights-Based Lawsuits by Citing 1871 Law

June 8, 2023

The Supreme Court on Thursday rule 7-2 to preserve the right to sue for civil rights violations under an 1871 law.

In its majority opinion, authored by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the Supreme Court rejected a bid to prevent the family of a government-run nursing home resident in Indiana from suing over his care.

The Court’s ruling allows the wife of Gorgi Talevski, who had been diagnosed with dementia, to sue Indiana municipal corporation Health and Hospital Corp of Marion County over claims it violated his rights.

Ivanka Talevski’s lawsuit was filed under Section 1983 of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which was passed during the Reconstruction Era to protect the rights of Black Americans. Section 1983 gives people the power to sue in federal court when state officials violate their Constitutional or statutory rights.

Talevski first filed her suit in 2019, alleging that her husband had been subjected to harmful psychotropic drugs and was unlawfully transferred to an all-male facility. She further asserted that the nursing home had violated the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act, which places limits the use of physical or chemical restraints and on transferring patients.

Gorgi Talevski died in 2021, while the litigation was pending.

In the case of Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County v Talevski, Jackson wrote in her opinion, “”‘Laws’ means ‘laws,’ no less today than in the 1870s.”

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented from the decision.

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