Title 42, section 1983 of the United States Code provides for a federal civil remedy to redress systematic police abuses. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b) reinforces the general rule that a single trial be held in multiple-defendant cases, but permits judges to bifurcate multiple defendants in exceptional instances. While this rule is usually followed in ordinary civil cases, Professor Colbert describes a current trend in which many federal courts are routinely ordering bifurcation of municipal defendants in section 1983 civil rights cases. As a result, he concludes, bifurcation shields a municipality's unlawful police practices from judicial scrutiny and acts to circumvent the underlying policy reasons that led the Supreme Court to recognize in Monell v. Department of Social Services that section 1983 provides such a federal remedy.
Douglas L. Colbert,
Bifurcation of Civil Rights Defendants: Undermining Monell in Police Brutality Cases,
44 Hastings L.J. 499
Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/hastings_law_journal/vol44/iss3/2