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Eleventh Circuit rules in excessive force civil rights case that civilian defendant’s rendering of brief, ad hoc assistance to a law enforcement officer was not state action subject to 42 U.S.C. § 1983

On November 16, 2021, in Charles v. Johnson et al, No. 20-12393, a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 excessive force case in which the plaintiff sued both law enforcement officials and a civilian who assisted a law enforcement officer in physically restraining the plaintiff during his arrest, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the civilian defendant. The Eleventh Circuit noted that while the plaintiff alleged that the civilian defendant violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, the Fourth Amendment applies only to governmental actions. The Eleventh Circuit held that a civilian’s rendering of brief, ad hoc assistance to a law enforcement officer is not state action, absent proof of a conspiracy to violate the constitutional rights of another, which the court did not find in this case.

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