Limits of Claims Brought under § 1983
§ 1983 does not apply to federal officials. Nor does it allow suits against a state itself, which would violate the Eleventh Amendment. Instead, plaintiffs may seek relief against state officials and also against municipalities and other intra- state localities. Unfortunately, litigation often leads to unpredictable determinations about whether a certain official is a state employee or not. For example, the Supreme Court held in one case that a county sheriff was a state employee for purposes of a § 1983 action because he represented the state of Alabama, not the county in which he acted as law enforcement official, when executing his law enforcement duties in the course of a criminal investigation. McMillian v. Monroe County, 520 U.S. 781 (1997). This means that one must look to the functional nature of the official’s action or determination instead of the official’s title or the nature of the official’s employment. Whether an official is acting for the state or a local government is therefore a determination made on a case-by-case basis.