Civil Rights Law
Civil rights litigation generally focuses on the deprivation of those inalienable rights that are secured for the People by the People through the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
In order to be actionable, these deprivations must occur "under color of law". In its simplest form, this usually involves state actors that utilize their offices for improper purposes. While these cases can be filed in state court, Defendants can (generally) automatically remove them to federal court.
Assuming that sovereign immunity has been waived, many civil rights cases tend to focus on the pervasive immunity generally enjoyed by state actors. This immunity is usually divided into two distinct sub-categories: absolute immunity and qualified immunity. These immunities have been fashioned in an attempt to protect the proper functioning of our government; as a general rule, the government cannot properly function if those who staff its ranks must constantly worry about whether or not they may be sued for their official conduct.
While the current state of civil rights law tends to favor the government, the presumption of immunity is necessarily piercable through fact-intensive exceptions. This presumption, however, leads to many civil rights verdicts in favor of Plaintiffs being exposed to the appeals process. Thus, it is extremely important to select skilled counsel with the commitment, ability, and resources to protect these all-important rights; not only will this inure to the direct benefit of a Plaintiff via a familiarity with substantive law, but it can foreseeably encourage defense counsel to encourage their client to reach a fair settlement in a timely manner.
Representative cases include suits brought via 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 and/or 1985 under:
- the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against law enforcement officers, a prosecuting attorney, and a judge in a rural Texas community based on a warrantless search;
- the Second, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments against police officers and the city that employs them based 1) on a warrantless entry into a residence, 2) excessive force to effect an arrest, and 3) the officers' efforts to unconstitutionally restrict the citizenry's right to bear arms; and
- the First and Fourteenth Amendments for unlawful retaliation.