Provisions against Conspiracies to Interfere with Civil Rights (42 U.S.C. § 1985)

42 U.S.C. § 1985 grants a civil cause of action for damages caused by various types of conspiracies aimed at injuring a person in his/her person or property, or denying him/her a Federal right or privilege.  § 1985 mainly deals with three instances of conspiracy: those aimed at preventing an officer from performing his/her duties; those aimed at obstructing justice by intimidating a party, witness, or juror; and those aimed at depriving a person’s rights or privileges.

By virtue of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(1) two or more persons are said to have conspired to prevent an officer from performing his/her duties when such persons conspire to:

  1. force, intimidate, or threaten the officer from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States;
  2. force, intimidate, or threaten the officer from discharging any duties connected with the office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States;
  3. induce the officer to leave any state, district or place, where his/her duties as an officer are required to be performed;
  4. injure the officer in his/her person or property on account of his/her lawful discharge of the duties of his/her office; and
  5. molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede the officer in the discharge of his/her official duties.

According to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2) two or more persons are said to have conspired to obstruct justice by intimidating a party, witness, or juror if such persons conspire:

  1. to deter, by force, intimidation, or threat, any party or witness in any court proceedings from attending court;
  2. to deter, by force, intimidation, or threat, any party or witness in any court proceedings from testifying to any matter freely, fully, and truthfully;
  3. to injure any party or witness in his/her person or property for having attended or testified in a court proceeding;
  4. to influence the verdict, presentment, or indictment of any juror in any court;
  5. to injure any juror in his/her person or property on account of any verdict, presentment, or indictment lawfully agreed by him/her as a juror;

42 U.S.C. § 1985(2) also state that two or more persons will be considered to have conspired to impede, hinder, obstruct, or defeat, the due course of justice if such persons conspire to:

  1. deny to any citizen the equal protection of the laws; or
  2. injure him/her or his/her property for lawfully enforcing the right of any person, or class of persons, to the equal protection of the laws.

Finally, by virtue of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) two or more persons are said to have conspired to deprive a third person’s rights or privileges if such persons conspire to:

  1. go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another, for the purpose of depriving, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or the equal privileges and immunities provided under the laws;
  2. prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote as an elector in the election of President or Vice-President, or members of Congress;
  3. injure any citizen in person or property on account of  support or advocacy rendered to voters in the election of President or Vice-President, or members of Congress.

If as a result of the conspiracy, one or more persons are injured in person or property, or is deprived of any of their rights or privileges, the party so injured or deprived may have an action for the recovery of damages, against the conspirators.  However, it is necessary that a plaintiff suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 should show the existence of a conspiracy. The existence of a conspiracy may also be inferred from the surrounding circumstances.

State limitation periods apply to actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985.  The plaintiff must plead facts with specificity and particularity.  Nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages are available to successful § 1985 plaintiffs.


Inside Provisions against Conspiracies to Interfere with Civil Rights (42 U.S.C. § 1985)