OK Supreme Court: Private Right of Action

On August 30, 2012, The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma certified three questions to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to ultimately resolve whether a private right of action exists under the Oklahoma Constitution for claims of excessive force:

1. Does Oklahoma law recognize a private right of action for excessive force under Oklahoma Constitution Article 2, § 30, as discussed by the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals in Bryson v.Oklahoma County ex rel. Oklahoma County Detention Center, 2011 OK CIV APP 98, ¶¶28-31, 261 P.3d 627, 638-40?

2. If Oklahoma recognizes such a cause of action, is a right of action available for deprivations occurring before the Court of Civil Appeals’ decision in Bryson?

3. If Oklahoma recognizes such a cause of action, are its standards of municipal liability coterminous with a federal cause of action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1983, or does Oklahoma law provide wider protections? Specifically, does any actionable right under the Oklahoma Constitution Article 2, §30 impose municipal or entity liability under a theory of respondeat superior?

See Bosh v. Cherokee County Governmental Building Authority, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, Case No. 11-CV-376-JHP (Dkt. #79, p. 1-2).

One panel of the Oklahoma Appellate Court has concluded that a claim exists under the state constitution, but the Oklahoma Supreme has not addressed the issue until now.

If the Supreme Court finds that a cause of action exists, even in the most limited circumstances, it will be the first time since Medina v. State in 1993 that a county might be required to compensate people victimized by jail staff or the conditions of their confinement.

The issue of county liability for the actions of sheriffs and jailers has gained more scrutiny in Oklahoma with the recent rape convictions against the former sheriff of Custer County and a $13 million taxpayer funded settlement against Delaware County.

Order Certifying Questions of Law to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma: Here.