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Police Misconduct/Prisoner Rights

Introduction

Experience

Philosophy


Employment Discrimination

Introduction

Experience

Philosophy

Introduction

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code is the single most important statute that may be employed to protect private citizens against violations of their rights under the United States Constitution by police officers, prison guards, and other persons in authority who abuse the power given them by states and local governments. Section 1983 reads in its entirety as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

Section 1983 gives a private party the right to sue for monetary damages or to obtain injunctive relief when some person acting “under color of law” improperly seeks to curtail the private party’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, engages in an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, or imposes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Section 1983 is often the first weapon in the arsenal of citizens who complain of police misconduct–for example, when local police officers beat up a suspect simply because the suspect makes a remark that the officer does not like–as well as of prisoners who complain of mistreatment while incarcerated–for example, when prison authorities fail to protect an inmate from assault by other inmates, or refuse to provide proper medical treatment to inmates under their care. While the language of §1983 appears to be simple enough, that appearance is deceptive. Few federal statutes have been interpreted by the courts as frequently as §1983, and no lawyer can competently represent a claimant on a §1983 claim without having carefully reviewed the case law concerning any issues raised by the claim in question.

In the areas of police misconduct and prisoner rights, lawsuits alleging violations of §1983 often also allege violations of relevant state laws as well as “common law” causes of action for civil assault, civil battery, wrongful arrest, false detention, and malicious prosecution.

 

 
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