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Case Basics
Docket No. 
James Monroe, et al.
Frank Pape, et al.
Facts of the Case 

On October 29, 1958, thirteen police officers, including Frank Pape, arrived at James Monroe's Chicago apartment at 5:45 A.M. The officers broke down the door, forced Monroe and his wife to stand naked in their living room, and ransacked the apartment. Afterwards, James Monroe was escorted to police quarters and held for ten hours on "open" charges while he was interrogated about a murder. The police did not have a warrant for the search or the arrest, and refused Monroe permission to call his attorney.

Monroe brought a complaint against each of the Chicago police officers individually and against the City of Chicago. The City of Chicago moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it was not liable under the Civil Rights Act nor for acts committed in performance of governmental functions. All defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that there was no cause of action under the Civil Rights Acts. The district court dismissed the complaint. The United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal.


1. Does a person have a valid cause of action under the Civil Rights Act against police officers when the police officers violate that person's due process?

2. Can municipalities be liable under the Civil Rights Act?

Decision: 8 votes for Monroe, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Reconstruction Civil Rights Acts (42 USC 1983)

Yes and No. Justice William O. Douglas, writing for the majority, stated that the city police officers, in conducting an unreasonable search and seizure, had committed an action which was under the color of law, and that the police could be held liable individually under the Civil Rights Act. However, the majority further held that a municipality could not be liable under the Civil Rights Act. So, the court reversed the lower court's opinion insofar as it dismissed the Civil Rights Act claim against the police officers.

Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote a concurring opinion which Justice Potter Stewart joined. In his opinion, Justice Harlan discussed the difficulties in explaining the distinction between authorized or unauthorized deprivations of constitutional rights.

Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote a dissent arguing that a police officer who acts outside the law loses his authority under the law, making a state tort claim against individual officers more appropriate than a claim under the Civil Rights Act.

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MONROE v. PAPE. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
MONROE v. PAPE, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"MONROE v. PAPE," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,