Washington Law Review


Eric Jenkins


Federal law, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, provides a cause of action against persons who use state or local law to deprive individuals of constitutional rights. Federal circuit courts have been reluctant to apply § 1983 to commonplace land use grievances because of the local character of land use planning and a belief that only the most egregious misuse of zoning power can implicate a party's substantive due process rights. To limit the number of claims that can be brought under § 1983, the federal circuits have narrowly defined what property rights are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and have held that allegations of due process violations must be based on more than the arbitrary and capricious denial of land use permits. The Washington Supreme Court has struggled to determine an appropriate standard to apply to § 1983 land use claims. In Mission Springs, Inc. v. City of Spokane, the court departed from its previous adherence to a stricter standard derived from the federal circuits. This Note examines the implications of that decision and argues that the stricter standards applied in the federal circuits are appropriate for § 1983 land use claims. Section 1983 was intended to protect fundamental constitutional rights rather than to provide a means of transforming distinctly local matters into federal constitutional claims.

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