Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 10 (2002)

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282

GONZAGA UNIV. v. DOE

Opinion of the Court

the aggregate services provided by the State, not to whether the needs of any particular person have been satisfied." Id., at 343 (emphases in original).

Because the provision focused on "the aggregate services provided by the State," rather than "the needs of any particular person," it conferred no individual rights and thus could not be enforced by 1983. We emphasized: "[T]o seek redress through 1983, . . . a plaintiff must assert the violation of a federal right, not merely a violation of federal law." Id., at 340 (emphases in original).

Respondent reads this line of cases to establish a relatively loose standard for finding rights enforceable by 1983. He claims that a federal statute confers such rights so long as Congress intended that the statute "benefit" putative plaintiffs. Brief for Respondent 40-46. He further contends that a more "rigorous" inquiry would conflate the standard for inferring a private right of action under 1983 with the standard for inferring a private right of action directly from the statute itself, which he admits would not exist under FERPA. Id., at 41-43. As authority, respondent points to Blessing and Wilder, which, he says, used the term "benefit" to define the sort of statutory interest enforceable by 1983. See Blessing, supra, at 340-341 ("Congress must have intended that the provision in question benefit the plaintiff"); Wilder, supra, at 509 (same).

Some language in our opinions might be read to suggest that something less than an unambiguously conferred right is enforceable by 1983. Blessing, for example, set forth three "factors" to guide judicial inquiry into whether or not a statute confers a right: "Congress must have intended that the provision in question benefit the plaintiff," "the plaintiff must demonstrate that the right assertedly protected by the statute is not so 'vague and amorphous' that its enforcement would strain judicial competence," and "the provision giving rise to the asserted right must be couched in mandatory, rather than precatory, terms." 520 U. S., at 340-341. In

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