Judicial Notice of Internet Evidence — Factual Info on Governmental Website — Lawyers Don’t Act under Color of State Law within § 1983, Though Licensed & Officers of the Court, when Performing Traditional Lawyer Functions
Duncan v. Strickland, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98863 (D.S.C. May 22, 2015):
Both Defendants are public defenders in Colleton County1 and are not either a "person acting under color of state law" within the meaning of § 1983. See Deas v. Potts, 547 F.2d 800 (4th Cir. 1976) ("A (private) attorney who is retained to represent a criminal defendant is not acting under color of state law, and therefore is not amenable to suit under § 1983."). "A lawyer representing a client is not, by virtue of being an officer of the court, a state actor 'under [*5] color of state law' within the meaning of § 1983." Polk Cnty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 318, 102 S.Ct. 445, 70 L.Ed.2d 509 (1981). "Although lawyers are generally licensed by the States, 'they are not officials of government by virtue of being lawyers.' " Id. at 319 n. 9 (quoting In re Griffiths, 413 U.S. 717, 729, 93 S.Ct. 2851, 37 L.Ed.2d 910 (1973)). It is well settled that an attorney, whether retained, court-appointed, or a public defender, does not act under color of state law when performing traditional functions as counsel. See Polk Cnty., 454 U.S. at 317-24 (1981) (public defender); Hall, 631 F.2d at 1155-56 (4th Cir. 1980) (court-appointed attorney); Deas, 547 F.2d at 800 (4th Cir. 1976) (private attorney); see also Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 936, 102 S.Ct. 2744, 73 L.Ed.2d 482 (1982) ("Careful adherence to the 'state action' requirement ... also avoids imposing on the State, its agencies or officials, responsibility for conduct for which they cannot fairly be blamed."); Fleming v. Asbill, 42 F.3d 886, 890 (4th Cir. 1994) ("Private lawyers do not act 'under color of state law' merely by making use of the state's court system."). These Defendants are not amenable to Plaintiff's § 1983 claim, and accordingly, should be dismissed as parties to this lawsuit as they have not acted "under color of state law."
1. https://www.sccid.sc.gov/about-us/county-public-defenders/colleton. A federal court may take judicial notice of factual information located in postings on governmental websites in the United States. See In Re Katrina Canal Breaches Consol. Litig., 53 F. Supp. 2d 615, 631-33 & nn. 14-15 (E.D. La. 2008) (collecting cases indicating that federal courts may take judicial notice of governmental websites, including court records); Williams v. Long, 585 F. Supp. 2d 679, 686-88 & n. 4 (D. Md. 2008) (collecting cases indicating that postings on government websites are inherently authentic or self-authenticating).
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