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Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision | Ensuring Public Safety for the 21st Century

Bench Book - 5.2.1.3 No Supervisor Liability under Section 1983

In general, Section 1983 liability will not be predicated solely on a theory of respondeat superior. For example, a chief probation officer or other supervisor or manager will not automatically be deemed vicariously liable simply because he or she sits higher on the chain of command than an officer who violated an offender’s constitutional rights. A supervisory official will be liable only when he or she plays an affirmative part in the complained-of misconduct. In Warner v. McVey, for example, the court dismissed an offender’s suit against the chair of the state parole board who had never met or communicated with the offender, rejecting the offender’s claim that the chair was “totally responsible for all of the subordinates that she oversees.” No. 08-55 Erie, 2010 WL 3239385, at *1, *11 (W.D. Pa. July 9, 2010).

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