Charter School not State Actor in Employment Matters

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Caviness v. Horizon Community Learning Center, Inc., __F.3d__, CV-07-00635 FJM (9th Cir., January 4, 2010) (J. Ikuta)

PRIVATE NON-PROFIT CORPORATION THAT RUNS A CHARTER SCHOOL IN ARIZONA NOT A STATE ACTOR UNDER 42 USC 1983 WITH RESPECT TO EMPLOYMENT RELATED ACTIONS TAKEN VIS A VIS A FORMER EMPLOYEE

Plaintiff teacher was terminated by the defendant Charter school for alleged improprieties with a student. Administrators at the school allegedly spread rumors about he improprieties and publicly labeled plaintiff a pedophile.

Plaintiff sued under section 1983 alleging violation of his rights and defamation under color of state law. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that while an entity like the defendant may be considered a state actor for some purposes it may not be a state actor for other purposes. Where the defendant is a private corporation its actions vis a vis its employees are not state actions since these actions are not a function that is traditionally and exclusively the prerogative of the state.

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