Civil rights law generally involves the protections and liberties enjoyed by the American people.
Such rights are designed to ensure that people are treated equally and without respect to their ethnicity, gender, or other such attributes. They also guard against overly intrusive conduct by the government. Government actors are not permitted to make decisions arbitrarily or to deprive individuals of their lives or property without affording them due process of law.
Primary sources of civil rights law include the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution (the “Bill of Rights”) as well as a number of important pieces of federal legislation passed in recent decades. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a primary example of federal law aimed at preventing discrimination. Other examples include the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
Police Brutality, Excessive Force, and Misconduct
Civil rights claim often arise in the context of law enforcement. Victims can bring claims based on excessive force or brutality, illegal searches and seizures, false arrests, malicious prosecutions, unjustified police shootings, and other abuses of power.
Prison Abuse Cases
The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. With more than two million Americans now behind bars, the Eighth Amendment is just as relevant today as it was when it was ratified in the year 1791. The rapid growth of the U.S. prison population has led to overcrowding, and in turn, deplorable and sometimes dangerous conditions for inmates. Inmates who have suffered injury or have otherwise been harmed as a result of prison conditions may have a right to financial or injunctive relief. Short deadlines exist for initiating a prison abuse case, however, so it is important to take action quickly.
Free Speech and Women’s Rights
Civil rights cases are not limited to claims against police officers and prison officials. Many constitutional rights can form the basis of a lawsuit, including the guarantees regarding speech, religion, association, due process, and equal protection under the law. Pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, and there is no reason to tolerate improper conduct related to an employee’s gender or pregnancy. A lawsuit will also be appropriate in instances where an employer retaliates against an employee for asserting any recognized civil right or informing authorities of civil rights violations at work.
Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States Code imposes liability on any person who, under “color of state law,” deprives another individual of his or her federal civil rights. Known as 1983 claims, lawsuits brought under this statute allow victims to sue state and municipal government officials who violate federal civil rights laws. While 1983 claims are a common method for holding local officials accountable, the doctrine of sovereign immunity may apply in certain situations. If so, an official may be completely or partially insulated from liability. Victims should therefore discuss the specifics of a 1983 claim with an attorney before moving forward.
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