for actions for the recovery of damages for personal injuries in this jurisdiction. Under Wilson that three-year statute should thus govern § 1983 claims in the District of Columbia.
The conclusion that the three-year limitation period is appropriately chosen as the "one most appropriate statute of limitations for all § 1983 claims" in the District of Columbia after Wilson is confirmed by consideration of the effect of a one-year statute on the federal interests identified by the Supreme Court.
Federal courts importing a state statute of limitations into such a Civil Rights Law have a "duty . . . to assure that the importation of state law will not frustrate or interfere with the implementation of national policies." See Occidental Life Insurance Co. of California v. EEOC, 432 U.S. 355, 367, 53 L. Ed. 2d 402, 97 S. Ct. 2447 (1977). In Wilson, the Supreme Court observed that any local law to be applied pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 must not be "inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States." Id. 105 S. Ct. at 1942 n.13. A federal court choosing which of two state statutes of limitations to borrow must consider "the balance that Congress would have preferred between the substantive policies underlying the federal claim and the policies of repose." See Wilson, supra, 105 S. Ct. at 1944, citing DelCostello v. Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 103 S. Ct. 2281, 76 L. Ed. 2d 476 (1983). The Wilson Court has noted that "the high purposes of this unique remedy [§ 1983] make it appropriate to accord the statute 'a sweep as broad as its language.'" Id 105 S. Ct. at 1945, quoting United States v. Price, 383 U.S. 787, 801, 16 L. Ed. 2d 267, 86 S. Ct. 1152 (1966). The Wilson Court sought to minimize "the risk that the choice of a state statute of limitations would not fairly serve the federal interests vindicated by § 1983." Id 105 S. Ct. at 1949.
This case is a textbook example of why Congress would not have preferred the one-year limitations period advocated by defendants as the blanket statute governing all Reconstruction civil rights statute and Bivens actions in the District of Columbia.
Cases such as this one alleging conspiracies actionable under § 1985(3) require considerable reflection and investigation by plaintiffs and their counsel before they decide to undertake to allege a complex conspiracy by such formidable adversaries as the FBI. For example, at one point in these proceedings government counsel refused, even after inquiries by the Court, to furnish plaintiffs' counsel with the addresses of named defendants who had retired from the FBI and whom plaintiffs sought to serve, but could not find. The obstacles which some defendants effectively placed (and could place in similar conspiracy cases) in the way of plaintiffs' efforts to identify, serve and depose them, demonstrates how a one-year statute of limitations could severely frustrate the remedial purposes of the Civil Rights Act. See 556 F. Supp. at 1184-86; 737 F.2d at 43. The complexities of this case further illustrate that the section 1985(3) remedy would not be adequately protected by the possibility of tolling a one-year statute upon proof of fraudulent concealment. See 737 F.2d at 33-37.
This particular case required many months (indeed years) of discovery and pretrial maneuvers. Seventeen days were required for trial. This Court's ruling on the post-trial motions occupied forty pages of the Federal Supplement. 556 F. Supp. 1157-97. The Court of Appeals required sixty-seven pages to analyze the case. Enormous effort would have been required in order for plaintiffs, in a brief span of twelve months after being alerted to their potential claim, to: (1) find out in a serious way what had happened to them, how it had happened and who was responsible, (2) engage and inform counsel, and (3) file and serve an adequate complaint. Quite apart from what the jury found to be fraudulent concealment, it would be inconsistent with the purposes of § 1985(3) to restrict plaintiffs in situations such as the jury found to have existed here to one year in which to file a complaint.
It may be that a plaintiff and counsel in the run-of-the-mill police brutality claim under § 1983 can be reasonably expected to develop within one year the law and the evidence required to prepare and file a complaint which would survive a motion to dismiss and the rigors of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See e.g., McClam v. Barry, supra. However, this case was obviously more complex and required more investigation and preparation than a police brutality matter. The conspiracies being committed during Reconstruction before the eyes of the draftsmen of the Civil Rights Act, whose experience was relied upon by the Wilson Court, were also complex.
Moreover, complex litigation has characterized the efforts over time to afford civil remedies to citizens deprived of constitutional rights by various aggregations of local, state and federal officials.
Recognizing the variety of wrongs remediable under the Civil Rights Act and as constitutional torts, the single local statute selected pursuant to Wilson (if, indeed, a single statute must be selected after Wilson to govern § 1983, § 1985 and Bivens claims) must provide sufficient time for the preparation of a complex conspiracy complaint such as the one here, but not permit a simple assault claim to languish while memories and witnesses fade away. The choice of the three-year statute serves both of these goals.
Such a choice should achieve "the balance that Congress would have preferred between the substantive policies underlying the federal claim and the policies of repose." 105 S. Ct. at 1944. It would also serve the federal interest in intrastate uniformity sought by the Wilson Court.
In reaching this conclusion, the Court has not overlooked defendants' vigorous contention that the District of Columbia one-year statute must be applied to all constitutional torts and Civil Rights Act violations here because it addresses intentional torts and such intentional torts are most closely analogous to those wrongs which originally inspired the Civil Rights Act. Defendants urge that post-Wilson decisions of Courts of Appeal in other Circuits have directed the selection of statutes relating to intentional torts. Mulligan v. Hazard, 777 F.2d 340 (6th Cir. 1985); Gates v. Spinks, 771 F.2d 916 (5th Cir. 1985); Jones v. Preuit & Mauldin, 763 F.2d 1250 (11th Cir. 1985). Each of these decisions turned on the historic fact noted in Wilson that the Civil Rights Acts were passed in reaction to intentional violence of the Ku Klux Klan activity in the South and that the target of the then new law was intentional violence; the courts thus concluded that the statutes of limitations to be applied were those applicable to intentional violence.
The Supreme Court in Wilson, however, easily could have specified that the "one most appropriate statute of limitations" is that statute which is applicable to intentional torts. The Court conspiciously failed to do so. Instead it concluded that § 1983 claims are best characterized as "personal injury actions" and further stated that
general personal injury actions, sounding in tort, constitute a major part of the total volume of civil litigation in the state courts today; [footnote omitted] and probably did so in 1871 when § 1983 was enacted.
Wilson, supra, 105 S. Ct. at 1949.
Moreover, the 5th, 6th and 11th Circuit cases did not present (and those courts apparently did not consider) the problems posed by application of a one-year statute to a complex § 1985(3) case like this one. The legislative history of the Reconstruction Civil Rights Acts (quoted by the Supreme Court in Wilson) and the historic context of that legislation make it clear that a simple focus in analysis under Wilson on the intentional nature of a tort or class of torts is too narrow. A statute of limitations to be selected pursuant to Wilson to govern § 1985 claims must be one which would permit a citizen to prepare and file suit against "conspiracies, darker than the night that hides them, conspiracies wicked as the worst of felons could devise . . . ." Cong. Globe, 42d Cong., 1st Sess. 374 (1871) (remarks of Rep. Lowe), quoted in Wilson, 105 S. Ct. at 1947. Section 1985(3) is addressed literally to cases where "two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire or go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another, for the purpose of depriving . . . any person . . . of the equal protection of the laws . . . ." For a plaintiff to find out that an attack on him in violation of § 1985(3) was intentional may not require much time. More than one year might well be required, however, to discover the identity of the responsible members of a clandestine complex conspiracy. Still more time would likely be required, even in the absence of fraudulent concealment, if the unknown co-conspirators were employees of a government agency engaged in systematic violations of constitutional rights. Such conspiratorial and systematic violations of constitutional rights have historically transpired in this country and elsewhere. They are an evil that our Bill of Rights and the Reconstruction Civil Rights Acts were designed to prevent. Selection of a one-year statute of limitations applicable to § 1985(3) and Bivens actions against complex criminal conspiracies undertaken by government employees in the District of Columbia (described in the Constitution as the Seat of Government.)
would disserve the high purposes of the Reconstruction Civil Rights Act.
Even if Wilson required application of the special one-year statute of limitations to § 1983, § 1985(3) and Bivens actions in the District of Columbia, Wilson should not be retroactively applied to this case. The Wilson Court cited with apparent approval the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Jackson v. City of Bloomfield, 731 F.2d 652, 655 (1984), not to apply the Wilson principle retroactively so as to "bar plaintiffs' day in court when their action was timely under the law in effect at the time their suit was commenced." Wilson, 105 S. Ct. at 1942 n.10.
The principles governing a decision as to whether a new rule should be retroactive are set out in Chevron Oil Co. v. Huson, 404 U.S. 97, 106-7, 30 L. Ed. 2d 296, 92 S. Ct. 349 (1971). Chevron indicates that three factors should be considered in determining whether a new principle of law should be given retroactive application. In order to avoid retroactive application:
First, the decision to be applied nonretroactively must establish a new principle of law, either by overruling clear past precedent on which litigants may have relied . . . or by deciding an issue of first impression whose resolution was not clearly foreshadowed. . . . Second, it has been stressed that "we must . . . weigh the merits and demerits in each case by looking to the prior history of the rule in question, its purpose and effect, and whether retrospective operation will further or retard its operation." [Citation omitted.] Finally, we have weighed the inequity imposed by retroactive application, for "where a decision of this Court could produce substantial inequitable results if applied retroactively, there is ample basis in our cases for avoiding the 'injustice or hardship' by a holding of nonretroactivity." [Citation omitted.]