The Case Against Section 1983 Immunity for Witnesses Who Conspire with a State Official to Present Perjured Testimony

This Note argues that witnesses who conspire with a state official to present perjured testimony at a judicial proceeding should not have absolute immunity from a section 1983 suit for damages. Part I provides background information on section 1983 and explains why a witness-state conspiracy satisfies the requirements of a section 1983 cause of action. Part I also summarizes the Supreme Court’s doctrinal approach to section 1983 immunity. Finally, Part I examines two Supreme Court cases which are relevant to the issue of immunity for witness conspirators: Briscoe v. LaHue, and Malley v. Briggs. Part II applies the Supreme Court’s section 1983 immunity analysis to witness conspirators and argues that immunity should not be extended to their conduct. Historical research shows that the act of conspiring to present perjured testimony would not have been immune from suit at the time that Congress enacted section 1983 and there is no evidence that Congress intended to grant immunity to witness conspirators by enacting section 1983. Furthermore, public policy considerations weigh in favor of allowing section 1983 suits against witness conspirators.