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Tenth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of §1983 Suit; No State Action Alleged

Tenth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of §1983 Suit; No State Action Alleged

On October 19, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. §1983 action brought by a man who had attempted to run an advertisement in a local paper opposing the election of a judge, only to have the ad pulled after the County Attorney and candidate paid for their own ad.

George Hall paid the Coffey County Republican to run two ads that opposed the election bid of Judge Phillip N. Fromme. The paper ran the first ad, but refused to run it again, instead replacing it with an ad that was paid for by Judge Fromme’s supporters. One of those supporters was the County Attorney, Douglas Witteman.

Hall sued Witteman and other Coffey County Officials alleging violations of his First Amendment rights and right to equal protection. In addition, Hall made a RICO claim.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Hall’s suit on the ground that Witteman and the other defendants were not acting as “state actors” when they convinced the local paper to drop Hall’s ad and run theirs instead. Section 1983 liability only applies when a defendant acts under “color of state law,” the court held. Hall’s RICO claims had no merit, the court concluded, because he failed to allege a pattern of continuing racketeering activity.See: Hall v. Witteman, 584 F.3d 859 (10th Cir. 2009)

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Related legal case

Hall v. Witteman