Maine v. Thiboutot
In Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1 (1980), the U.S. Supreme Court held that Section 1983 creates a cause of action for deprivations under color of state law of any federal statutory right and that purely statutory claims were "civil rights" actions under Section 1983. The Court held that 42 U.S.C. § 1988 permits the "prevailing party" to recover his attorney's fees.
These two holdings dramatically expanded the liability of state and local officials and virtually eliminated the "American Rule" in favor of plaintiffs bringing actions against those officials.
Justice William Brennan, at the urging of the ACLU as amicus curiae, wrote the opinion for the 6-3 Court. Justice Lewis Powell dissented, and he was joined by Chief Justice Warren Burger and Justice William Rehnquist.