In its first opinion of the 1991-92 term the Supreme Court last week ruled state officials can be forced to pay money out of their own pockets if their actions infringe on other people's rights.

Ruling 8 to 0 -- Justice Clarence Thomas did not participate because the case was argued before he was sworn in -- the court said officials can be held liable under the federal civil rights law even if their actions were part of their officila duties.

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