Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 13 (2002)

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

Opinion of the Court

the initial inquiry—determining whether a statute confers any right at all—is no different from the initial inquiry in an implied right of action case, the express purpose of which is to determine whether or not a statute "confer[s] rights on a particular class of persons." California v. Sierra Club, 451 U. S. 287, 294 (1981). This makes obvious sense, since 1983 merely provides a mechanism for enforcing individual rights "secured" elsewhere, i. e., rights independently "secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States. "[O]ne cannot go into court and claim a 'violation of 1983'—for 1983 by itself does not protect anyone against anything." Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization, 441 U. S. 600, 617 (1979).

A court's role in discerning whether personal rights exist in the 1983 context should therefore not differ from its role in discerning whether personal rights exist in the implied right of action context. Compare Golden State Transit Corp. v. Los Angeles, 493 U. S. 103, 107-108, n. 4 (1989) ("[A] claim based on a statutory violation is enforceable under 1983 only when the statute creates 'rights, privileges, or immunities' in the particular plaintiff"), with Cannon, supra, at 690, n. 13 (statute is enforceable under implied right only where Congress "explicitly conferred a right directly on a class of persons that included the plaintiff in the case"). Both inquiries simply require a determination as to whether or not Congress intended to confer individual rights upon a class of beneficiaries. Compare Wright, 479 U. S., at 423 (statute must be "intended to rise to the level of an enforce-"specific evidence from the statute itself," Wright v. Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority, 479 U. S. 418, 423 (1987), or "impliedly, by creating a comprehensive enforcement scheme that is incompatible with individual enforcement under 1983," Blessing v. Freestone, 520 U. S. 329, 341 (1997). See also Middlesex County Sewerage Authority v. National Sea Clammers Assn., 453 U. S. 1, 20 (1981). These questions do not arise in this case due to our conclusion that FERPA confers no individual rights and thus cannot give rise to a presumption of enforceability under 1983.


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