Citizens get power to sue officials in 'rights' denials

The Supreme Court has given citizens the right to sue state or local officials who try to deny rights guaranteed under federal laws. In a 6- to-3 ruling, the majority said an 1871 civil rights law allows individuals to file suit against those officials for violations even if the alleged action did not trample on their constitutional rights. The Wednesday decision concerned a Maine coupled protesting a reduction in their welfare payments.

The court also ruled that the winner of a case may collect legal fees. Dissenters warned that unemployment, medicaid, school lunch subsidies, food stamps, and other state-federal programs may become the targets of such lawsuits.

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