During the mid-1950’s to mid-1970’s, civil rights issues took a forefront in the legal and political arena. During this period, several Reconstruction Era acts were revived by court decisions. 2 One of the most misunderstood of the civil rights statutes is 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).’ A recent United States Supreme Court case shed substantial light on the statute. In United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 610 v. Scott,4 the Court held that a group of non-union workers were not protected by section 1985(3) because the statute does not reach private conspiracies to deprive one of first amendment rights or conspiracies based upon economic bias.’ As a result, the Court implicitly overruled a growing body of lower court decisions which were expanding section 1985(3) protection. 6 The application of section 1985(3) is now limited by Scott in two areas: rights protecte4 and classes protected.
After the ratification of the thirteenth amendment, organizations arose to oppose equality between blacks and whites. The most notorious of these groups was the Ku Klux Klan. Congress responded by enacting a series of civil rights laws: Civil Rights Act of 1866, 14 Stat. 27; Civil Rights Act of 1870, 16 Stat. 140; Force Act of 1871, 16 Stat. 433; Civil Rights Act of 1871 (Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871), 17 Stat. 13; and Civil Rights Act of 1875, 18 Stat. 335. Many of these laws have been resurrected in recent court decisions. See, e.g., Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, 421 U.S. 454 (1975) (holding that 42 U.S.C. § 1981 reaches private racial discrimination in contractual relations); Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409 (1968) (holding that 42 U.S.C. § 1982 reaches private racial discrimination in property transactions); Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167 (1961) (holding that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 protects rights guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment). 3. (1976).
The statute provides a damages remedy to persons injured where two or more persons conspire for the purpose of depriving any person or class of persons of, the equal protection of the laws or of equal privileges and immunities under the law and an act is done in furtherance of the object of such conspiracy whereby another is injured. The statute is a codification of section 2 of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13. The Supreme Court did not address the statute until 1951. In Collins v. Hardyman, 341 U.S. 651 (1951), the Court required state action for a section 1985(3) cause of action. Consequently, the statute remained dormant because 42 U.S.C. § 1983 already provided a civil remedy for constitutional violations by state actors. In Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88 (1971), the Court first allowed an action against private persons under section 1985(3).
In Griffin, black plaintiffs were prevented from exercising their constitutional right to interstate travel. In granting relief, the Court left only vague guidelines as to when section 1985(3) reaches private conduct. For example, after ruling that section 1985(3) does cover private conspiracies, the Court stated that their conclusion did not mean that section 1985(3) applies to all tortious, conspiratorial interferences with the rights of others. Id. at 101. See generally Esbeck & Schumaker, Current Practice Under 42 U.S.C. Sections 1985 and 1986, BARRISTER, Fall 1984, at 34
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