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state action

n. in federal Civil Rights Acts, dating back to 1875, any activity by the government of a state, any of its components or employees (like a sheriff) who uses the "color of law" (claim of legal right) to violate an individual's civil rights. Such "state action" gives the person whose rights have been violated by a governmental body or official the right to sue that agency or person for damages.

See also: civil rights 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications