Los Angeles County v. Humphries


Whether all claims for relief against a municipality under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including claims for declaratory or prospective relief, are subject to the Monell requirement that the plaintiff prove that the constitutional injury was inflicted as a result of a policy, custom, or practice of the municipality.


In 2001, Craig and Wendy Humphries were arrested on child abuse charges and listed in California's Child Abuse Central Index ("CACI"), which is organized under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act ("CANRA"). All charges against the Humphrieses were dismissed, and the Humphrieses obtained an order declaring them factually innocent. However, the Humphrieses were unable to contest their listing in the CACI. The Humphrieses sued Los Angeles County pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking declaratory relief establishing that CANRA and policies related to the CACI are unconstitutional because of the lack of procedures to challenge an individual's inclusion based on a substantiated claim. Los Angeles County argued that as a local government it had no control over CACI procedures because the state government created these policies. The Ninth Circuit sided with the Humphrieses and held that Los Angeles County's liability should be determined according the requirements established in Monell v. Department of Social Services. The Supreme Court must now decide whether claims for declaratory relief against a public entity are subject to the requirements of Monell.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

1. Are claims for declaratory relief against a local public entity subject to the requirement of Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) that the plaintiff demonstrate that the constitutional violation was the result of a policy, custom or practice attributable to the local public entity as determined by the First, Second, Fourth, and Eleventh Circuits, or are such claims exempt from Monell's requirement as determined by the Ninth Circuit?

2. May a plaintiff be a prevailing party under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 for purposes of a fee award against a local public entity based upon a claim for declaratory relief where the plaintiff has not demonstrated that any constitutional violation was the result of a policy, custom or practice attributable to the public entity under Monell?

3. May a plaintiff be a prevailing party on a claim for declaratory relief for purposes of a fee award under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 where there is neither a formal order nor judgment granting declaratory relief, nor any other order altering the legal relationship between the parties in a way that directly benefits the plaintiff?

In March 2001, Craig Humphries' fifteen-year-old daughter S.H. stole his car and drove from California to her mother's home in Utah. See Humphries v. County of Los Angeles, 554 F.3d 1170, 1180 (9th Cir. 2009). S.H.

Edited by 


Additional Resources 

· Los Angeles Times, Carol J. Williams: Abuser List Tags Innocents, Too (Dec. 7, 2008)

· Education Week, Mark Walsh: Civil Rights Case Has Implications for Schools (Feb. 23, 2010)

· Examiner. com, Daniel Weaver: NC Court of Appeals Rules Procedure for Putting People on Child Abuse Register is Unconstitutional (Mar. 4, 2010)

· Child Abuse Registry Hits Stumbling Blocks (Apr. 26, 2010)

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