A constitutional tort is a violation of one’s constitutional rights by a government employee. The alleged constitutional violation creates a cause of action that is distinct from any otherwise available state tort remedy. “Constitutional tort” is a predominantly academic term originating in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Monroe v. Pape (1961), which held that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a separate federal remedy for individuals suing state or municipal government officers who have violated their constitutional rights. The term is also used in the context of Bivens actions, which are lawsuits under federal common law for constitutional violations committed by federal government employees. As with common law torts, the usual remedy for constitutional torts is monetary damages.
[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]