WPI 341.01 Civil Rights—Municipal and Local Government Liability—General Introductory Instructi...
6A WAPRAC WPI 341.01Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
6A Wash. Prac., Wash. Pattern Jury Instr. Civ. WPI 341.01 (7th ed.)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
April 2022 Update
Part XVII. Civil Rights
Chapter 341. Civil Rights—Municipal and Local Government Liability
WPI 341.01 Civil Rights—Municipal and Local Government Liability—General Introductory Instruction
If a plaintiff is subjected to a deprivation of a constitutional right as a result of the official policy of a [city] [county], the [city] [county] is liable for injury or damage [proximately] caused by the deprivation if the official policy is a moving force that led to the deprivation.
“Official policy” means:
[(1)] [a rule or regulation promulgated, adopted, or ratified by the governmental entity's legislative body;]
[(2)] [a policy statement or decision that is officially made by the [city's] [county's] policy-making official;]
[(3)] [a custom or usage that is a permanent, widespread, well-settled practice that constitutes a standard operating procedure of the [city] [county];] [or]
[(4)] [an act or omission ratified by the [city's] [county's] policy-making official.] [(Name of person)is a policy-making official of(name of city or county).]
NOTE ON USE
Use this general instruction when a claim for civil rights liability is brought against a municipal or local government.
Select the appropriate bracketed phrases, depending upon the facts of the case. The bracketed phrases are selected definitions of official policy drawn from the cases cited in the Comment. Choose from among these phrases depending on the facts of the case, or draft other case-specific language. If paragraph (4) is being used, then include the paragraph's final sentence if the court has already ruled whether a particular individual was a policy-making official.
Policy maker. The determination of who is a final policy-maker is a legal issue to be determined by the court based on state and local law. See McMillian v. Monroe County, 520 U.S. 781, 785–93, 117 S.Ct. 1734, 138 L.Ed.2d 1 (1997); Jett v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 491 U.S. 701, 737–38, 109 S.Ct. 2702, 105 L.Ed.2d 598 (1989); City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 124, 108 S.Ct. 915, 99 L.Ed.2d 107 (1988) (plurality opinion). The instruction reflects the judge's role in deciding this issue. If factual issues exist, the jury might need to be instructed to find some of the facts.
Policy or custom. A municipality may be held liable for an official policy or informal custom, Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690–94, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), for acts or decisions of officials with final policy-making authority, Jett v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 491 U.S. at 723–31, 737, or for consciously ratifying the conduct of another, Gillette v. Delmore, 979 F.2d 1342, 1347 (9th Cir. 1992). See also Trevino v. Gates, 99 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 1996) (liability for an improper custom may not be predicated on isolated or sporadic incidents); Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1443–44 (9th Cir. 1991) (acquiescence in the repeated contravention of official written policy may itself constitute a custom or practice giving rise to liability).
Causation. Interpreting Monell, the Supreme Court in Bryan Co. Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 117 S.Ct. 1382, 137 L.Ed.2d 626 (1997), emphasized the need for plaintiff to demonstrate a direct causal link between the municipal action and the deprivation of federal rights, i.e., that the municipal action was the “moving force” behind the conduct that resulted in the deprivation. Bryan Co. Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. at 404. For further discussion of causation issues, see WPI 340.04 (Civil Rights—“Subjects” and “Causes to be Subjected”—Definition) and WPI 340.06 (Civil Rights—Causation—Comment Only).
Ratification. A jury may infer the existence of a policy or custom of a municipality if the municipality or its policy-makers ratify, by action or omission, the wrongful conduct of its employees after the fact. A ratification may occur when the policy-maker does not take remedial, disciplinary, or corrective action after the occurrence of the wrongful conduct. However, a policy-maker's inaction alone is not enough to establish ratification of an unconstitutional act. To prevail, the plaintiff must prove that the policy-maker made a deliberate choice from among various alternatives to follow a particular course of action. See the cases cited below.
“Policy or custom may be inferred if, after [constitutional violations] … officials took no steps to reprimand, or discharge the[ir subordinates], or if they otherwise failed to admit the [subordinates'] conduct was in error.” Larez v. City of Los Angeles, 946 F.2d 630, 645 (9th Cir. 1991), quoting McRorie v. Shimoda, 795 F.2d 780, 784 (9th Cir. 1986).
To prevail on ratification grounds, the plaintiff must present evidence of “affirmative or deliberate conduct” on the part of the policymaker. Gillette v. Delmore, 979 F.2d 1342, 1349 (9th Cir. 1992). “If the authorized policymakers approve a subordinate's decision and the basis for it, their ratification would be chargeable to the municipality because their decision is final.” City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 127, 108 S.Ct. 915, 99 L.Ed.2d 107 (1988) (plurality opinion); Miguel v. Guess, 112 Wn.App. 536, 546, 51 P.3d 89 (2002) (citing Praprotnik).
However, simply “going along with discretionary decisions made by one's subordinates … is not a delegation to them of the authority to make policy.” The United States Supreme Court distinguished ratification of a policy statement by a subordinate official later expressly approved, or a series of decisions manifesting a “‘custom or usage’ of which the supervisor must have been aware,” both of which could indicate that the supervisor had adopted a policy “that happened to have been formulated or initiated by a lower-ranking official.” … City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. at 129.
It may be helpful to define “ratified” for the jury by applying these holdings to the extent they apply to the facts of the case.
[Current as of September 2018.]
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