Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rendell-Baker v. Kohn case brief

Rendell-Baker v. Kohn case brief summary
457 U.S. 830 (1982)

Petitioner employees challenged an order from the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which determined that they were not entitled to pursue 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 claims against respondents, private school and director, because the school had not acted under the color of state law in terminating the employees.

Employees were terminated by the director of the private school at which they worked, allegedly because they had exercised their U.S. Constitutional Amendment I rights. The school, although private, received up to 99 percent of its funding from public sources and was subject to much public regulation. After one district court determined that five of the employees were entitled to bring a 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 action against the school, but another district court determined that another employee was not, the court of appeals reviewed both cases and determined that the school was not a state actor.


  • On petition to the Court, the Court determined that the school's actions were not "fairly attributable to the state" and that, therefore, the employees did not have a cognizable § 1983 action. 
  • The Court found that the school was like a private contractor dependent upon government contracts and that acts of such private contractors did not become acts of the government by reason of their significant or total engagement in performing public contracts. 
  • The Court also found that the personnel regulation of the school by the state was not sufficient to make a decision to discharge state action.
The Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals, finding that the employees had not stated a claim for relief under the civil rights laws.

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