Law: Suing a State

The court makes it easier

With eight children to support, Lionel and Joline Thiboutot could scarcely afford the reduction in federal welfare benefits required under Maine's new method of computing such payments. When their initial protests failed, the couple turned to the courts, and last week the Supreme Court ruled that Maine must pay them their benefits. In their 6-to-3 decision, the Justices broke new legal ground: they held that states can be sued under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 for violating a citizen's rights created under any federal statutes.

The Reconstruction era law was designed to protect the newly...

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