Protecting Everyone’s Constitutional Rights Act (PECRA)

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Summary

PECRA creates a cause-of-action for citizens to vindicate their constitutional rights in state courts. PECRA takes the well-established legal concept of respondeat superior–a form of vicarious liability–and applies it to municipal and state government employers. Today, this concept ensures that private employers take responsibility for their employees. When private employees commit wrongs within the scope of their employment, victims can sue their employers. For example, an injured person can sue a pizza company for the harm its delivery driver causes. If local or state government employees violate constitutional rights within the scope of employment, PECRA requires that governments stand behind their employees’ official actions. This incentivizes governments to take responsibility for hiring, training, managing and disciplining employees the way private employers do. PECRA does not create personal liability for government employees, nor does it affect criminal prosecutions. By applying a legal concept honed through centuries of common law, PECRA ensures a remedy for individuals whose rights are violated.

Protecting Everyone’s Constitutional Rights Act (PECRA)

Subdivision 1:     Definitions

(1) “Government” means state, county, municipal, and other political subdivision in this state.

(2) “Government employee” means an individual employed or contracted by a government employer.

(3) “Government employer” means an executive, legislative, or judicial agency, department, board, commission, authority, institution, or instrumentality of the state or of a county, municipality, or other political subdivision in this state.

Subd. 2:                State Cause-of-Action

(1) Under this chapter, the government employer shall be liable for an injury caused by an act or omission of a government employee who, under color of law, violates a right under the constitution of this State or the United States.

(2) An individual may seek legal, equitable, or other relief in a court of this state for a violation of the individual’s right under the constitution of this State or the United States.

(3) The proper defendant in an action is the government employer and not a government employee.

(4) A government employee shall not be found financially liable for a violation of a right under the constitution of this State or the United States.

(5) The government employer shall notify the government employee, whose act or omission is the subject of a claim under this chapter within 10 days of the government employer being served. The government employee has an unconditional right to intervene in the action, as a third-party defendant, pursuant to this State’s rules of civil procedure and court rules.

(6) The action is not subject to:

(A) Common law doctrines of immunity;

(B) Federally-recognized doctrines of qualified immunity;

(C) Sovereign immunity, governmental immunity, custom or policy; or

(D) Statutory immunities and limitations on liability or damages.

(7) Nothing in this chapter abrogates immunity for judges and legislators at any level of government for actions taken in their judicial or legislative capacities, respectively.

(8) Notwithstanding this State’s rules of civil procedure and court rules, a class action is prohibited under his chapter.

(9) A claim shall commence no later than three years from the date a claim can be brought for the deprivation of a right under the constitution of this State or the United States.

(10) The plaintiff bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the government employee violated a right under the constitution of this State or the United States.

Subd. 3:              Jurisdiction in State Court

(1) An action under this chapter arises out of State law.

(2) Jurisdiction is in this State’s judicial system pursuant to this State’s laws and rules of civil procedure.

Subd. 4:                Evaluating the Use of Force

(1) When evaluating a government employee’s use of force under the constitution of the United States, the court’s determination of reasonableness must be objective and made from the perspective of a reasonable government employee on the scene confronted with the immediate facts and circumstances of the claim. The court shall recognize that a government employee often must make split-second decisions in tense, uncertain, and rapidly-evolving situations. A court shall not determine reasonableness using hindsight or based on facts and circumstances that are later discovered.[1]

Subd. 5:                Judicial Process

(1) The court’s order shall be supported by findings of facts and conclusions of law. The court shall make the findings of fact in a bench trial and the jury shall make them in a jury trial. The court shall make conclusions of law.

Subd. 6:              Attorney Fees

(1) In any proceeding in which a plaintiff’s claim prevails, the government shall be liable for reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs.

(2) Reasonable attorney fees include those incurred on an hourly or contingency basis, or by an attorney providing services on a pro bono basis.

(3) The court shall recognize that a plaintiff’s claim prevails if the plaintiff obtains any relief the plaintiff seeks in its complaint, whether the relief is obtained via judgment, settlement or the government’s voluntary change in behavior.

(4) Under this State’s rules of civil procedure, the court may dismiss a frivolous claim and may award reasonable attorney fees and costs to the defendant for defending against a frivolous claim.

Subd. 7:                Termination of Contract, Agreement or Employment

(1) For any contract or agreement enacted after the effective date of this legislation and notwithstanding any other law, a court’s finding that a government employee violated a right under the constitution of this State or the United States under this chapter is per se evidence that the government employer has just cause for terminating the employment of the government employee.

(2) The government’s termination of a contract, agreement or employment with the government employee shall not affect the government’s liability under this chapter.

Subd 8:               Public information

All documents, including complaints, judgments, settlements, and consent decrees, are subject to public disclosure.

Severability Clause

Effective Date

 

[1] Graham v. Connor, 490 U. S. 386, 396 (1989) (Adopting the perspective “of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight” and allowing for “the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”) Plumhoff v. Rickard, 572 U.S. 765, 777 (2014). (The Court has repeatedly emphasized that police officers “are often forced to make split second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.”)