Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 11 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 273 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

the same paragraph, however, Blessing emphasizes that it is only violations of rights, not laws, which give rise to 1983 actions. Id., at 340. This confusion has led some courts to interpret Blessing as allowing plaintiffs to enforce a statute under 1983 so long as the plaintiff falls within the general zone of interest that the statute is intended to protect; something less than what is required for a statute to create rights enforceable directly from the statute itself under an implied private right of action. Fueling this uncertainty is the notion that our implied private right of action cases have no bearing on the standards for discerning whether a statute creates rights enforceable by 1983. Wilder appears to support this notion, 496 U. S., at 508-509, n. 9, while Suter, 503 U. S., at 363-364, and Pennhurst, 451 U. S., at 28, n. 21, appear to disavow it.

We now reject the notion that our cases permit anything short of an unambiguously conferred right to support a cause of action brought under 1983. Section 1983 provides a remedy only for the deprivation of "rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States. Accordingly, it is rights, not the broader or vaguer "benefits" or "interests," that may be enforced under the authority of that section. This being so, we further reject the notion that our implied right of action cases are separate and distinct from our 1983 cases. To the contrary, our implied right of action cases should guide the determination of whether a statute confers rights enforceable under 1983.

We have recognized that whether a statutory violation may be enforced through 1983 "is a different inquiry than that involved in determining whether a private right of action can be implied from a particular statute." Wilder, supra, at 508, n. 9. But the inquiries overlap in one meaningful respect—in either case we must first determine whether Congress intended to create a federal right. Thus we have held that "[t]he question whether Congress . . . intended to create a private right of action [is] definitively an-

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