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First Circuit Refuses to Recognize a Section 1981 Private Right of Action for Damages Against State Actors

In a recent decision, Buntin v. City of Boston, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that there is no implied private right of action for damages against state actors under 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. In reaching that conclusion, the court of appeals determined that Congress, when it amended the statute in 1991, did not overrule the Supreme Court of the United States’ 1989 holding in Jett v. Dallas Independent School District, 491 U.S. 701 (1989), that Section 1981 affords no such right of action and that 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 is the exclusive source for federal damages actions against state actors alleged to have violated Section 1981. The First Circuit’s ruling in Buntin is consistent with that of eight other federal appellate courts, and the Ninth Circuit remains the only federal appeals court to have held that Congress overruled Jett by amending the statute.
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