Civil Liberties: Judicial Immunity, Prisoner's Rights, Title VII and School Desegregation

C. Peter Erlinder, William Mitchell College of Law

Debra Evenson is a co-author on this article.


The character of an appellate court is determined more by its interpretation and application of opinions of the United States Supreme Court than by its enunciation of new doctrine. Because many of the civil liberties cases decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit during 1979-80 were decisions of panels composed of members of the circuit as well as judges from other jurisdictions sitting by designation, the Seventh Circuit cannot be said to speak with a consistent voice even in its application of Supreme Court precedent. Such application during the 1979-80 term ranged from strictly literal to expansive. This article will only discuss some of the areas of law covered by the 1979-80 term, as follows: judicial immunity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, prisoners' rights, employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and school desegregation.