Civil Rights Attorneys: Fighting To Protect Your Rights and Liberties
The U.S. Declaration of Independence states as follows: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Unalienable rights are those that their possessors cannot give away, nor can the government or anyone else take them away. If someone attempts to do so, civil rights attorneys are the “knights on white steeds” who ride into court to protect these rights for their respective clients.
In America, all of our civil rights and liberties flow from the U.S. Constitution. Since the founding of our country, the federal government has passed further laws enhancing them. The U.S. Supreme Court has also decided many cases that expand them.
Bill of Rights
The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights and set forth the basic rights that U.S. residents have:
- First Amendment – right to freedom of religion, speech and assembly, plus the right to have a free press
- Second Amendment – right to keep and bear arms
- Fourth Amendment – right to be free of unreasonable government searches and seizures
- Fifth Amendment – right against self-incrimination
- Sixth Amendment – right to a speedy trial, the assistance of counsel and a jury of one’s peers in all criminal prosecutions
- Eighth Amendment – right against excessive bail or fines, plus right against being subjected to cruel and unusual punishments
While the Constitution doesn’t mention the right against discrimination per se, the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, states that: “No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This Amendment serves as the basis for all the anti-discrimination laws passed thereafter, and what provides grounds for your civil rights attorney to defend you.
Historic federal anti-discrimination laws include the following:
- 1964 – Civil Rights Act
- 1965 – Voting Rights Act
- 1968 – Fair Housing Act
- 1973 – Rehabilitation Act
- 1975 – Age Discrimination Act
- 1990 – Americans with Disabilities Act
Collectively, these laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information and citizenship. If you’ve faced discrimination, then call now or fill out the form below to speak with a civil rights attorney who can defend you.
Supreme Court Decisions
Landmark anti-discrimination U.S. Supreme Court decisions include the following:
- 1954 – Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka: public school segregation declared unconstitutional (Fourteenth Amendment)
- 1961 – Mapp v. Ohio: evidence obtained by law enforcement officers in violation of the Fourth Amendment deemed inadmissible in court
- 1963 – Gideon v. Wainwright: the state must provide all criminal defendants with an attorney if they cannot afford to hire one (Sixth Amendment)
- 1963 – Brady v. Maryland: prosecutors in all criminal actions must turn over to the defense any exculpatory evidence in their possession that might exonerate the defendant (Sixth Amendment)
- 1965 – Griswold v. Connecticut: right to privacy established based on the penumbras, i.e., zones, implied by the specific guarantees of the Third, Fourth and Ninth Amendments
- 1966 – Miranda v. Arizona: law enforcement officers must advise suspects they arrest of their right to remain silent (Fifth Amendment) and their right to an attorney (Sixth Amendment); furthermore, all police interrogation must cease if the suspect invokes his or her Fifth or Sixth Amendment rights
- 1973 – Roe v. Wade: established a woman’s right to choose to abort her fetus, based on the right to privacy; however, states can impose restrictions during the second and third trimesters
- 2015 – Obergefell v. Hodges: all states must allow same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages obtained in all other states (Fourteenth Amendment)
If needed, then an experienced civil rights attorney will draw on these landmark cases to fight for your rights.
Examples of Civil Rights Violations
Given the numerous civil rights and liberties you have, a violation of them can take many forms:
- Your employer fails to provide you with the reasonable accommodation(s) your disability requires.
- A law enforcement officer arrests you and interrogates you without advising you of your Miranda rights.
- Your employer segregates you from other employees or positions your workstation out of the sight of customers because you wear your religious garb.
- A law enforcement officer uses excessive force while arresting you.
- An election official insists that you pass a literacy test before being allowed to vote.
- A landlord refuses to rent to you based on your race.
- Your supervisor or a co-worker mocks your religious beliefs by continually telling jokes that denigrate your religion and people who hold such beliefs.
- A law enforcement officer or private individual falsely imprisons you.
- A bakery shop refuses to make your wedding cake because the proprietor knows that you plan to marry someone of the same sex as you.
- Your supervisor or a co-worker sexually harasses you.
What Civil Rights Attorneys Do
Civil rights constitutes a huge and varied area of law. Consequently, civil rights attorneys practice a wide array of specific types of laws. In general, an attorney who holds himself or herself out as a civil rights attorney represents clients who have suffered discrimination at the hands of employers, government officials, the public school system, landlords, merchants and others who treat them differently than they treat other people.
However, an attorney who specializes in employment discrimination may advertise himself or herself as an employment attorney. An attorney who specializes in age discrimination may advertise himself or herself as an elder rights attorney. An attorney who chooses to represent only men in divorce cases may advertise himself or herself as a fathers’ rights attorney.
Torts, i.e., civil wrongs, likewise can have civil rights overtones. Therefore, personal injury attorneys, especially those experienced in handling intentional infliction of emotional distress cases or “hate crime” civil cases, often represent clients whose injuries came about because someone targeted them for their race, religion or sexual orientation.
Choose Your Attorney Wisely
All of the above information boils down to the point that you should choose your attorney wisely when you want to sue someone for infringing on your civil rights. Find an attorney who has a track record of successfully representing clients who suffered discrimination or a tort similar to yours.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
Submit a request online today or call us at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced civil rights, personal injury or employment discrimination lawyer in your area.