Statute of Limitations

Determining who can bring a claim for a constitutional rights violation, who to bring the claim against, and the time limits for doing so can be complicated because many of these factors will change depending on the specific right being violated and the requirements of the underlying claim.


The appropriate Plaintiff is any individual who has suffered a violation of a constitutionally afforded right. Despite the text of the §1983 statute, this may include individuals who are not United States citizens.  Graham v Richardson, 403 US 365, 375 (1971).


Any government, governmental agency, or governmental agent or employee who was working under the color of the law may be named as a Defendant. Additionally, a private citizen may be named as a Defendant if they deprived an individual of a constitutional right while acting in concert with a government official at the time of the Plaintiff’s deprivation.

Note, however, that pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution, the fifty states have absolute immunity from suit in federal court. Thus, if the action is against the state government, a §1983 action is improper, and the claim should be brought in the subject state’s court of claims. This immunity does not extend to local governments or municipalities.

Statute of Limitations

There is no statute of limitations contained within the language of 42 USC §1983. The United States Supreme Court has directed that 42 USC §1988 “requires courts to borrow and apply to all §1983 claims the one most analogous state statute of limitations.” Owens v Okure, 488 US 235, 240 (1989). Thus, for tort-based actions brought in Michigan under §1983, the appropriate statute of limitations is 3 years, pursuant to MCL 600.5805(10).