Wolf Haldenstein has a long proud history of representing individuals who have been discriminated against. It started over 50 years ago when the Firm’s partners represented the Freedom Riders in the South during the Civil Rights movement and has continued to today. Wolf Haldenstein’s current civil rights practice ranges from representing and protecting the civil rights of children in protective custody, incarcerated adults and minority and women owned businesses.
Civil Rights FAQ’s
What Are Civil Rights Claims?
Individuals are guaranteed numerous civil rights under federal and state laws. If these rights are violated, the victim may be able to bring a civil lawsuit. Some of these rights include:
- The Right to Privacy
Individuals are to be free from the public disclosure of private information that unfairly damages their reputation or career, as well as the unauthorized transmittal and sale of their private data.
- The Right to Due Process
Individuals are entitled to the due process of law and are to be free from government depravations of life, liberty, or property.
- The Right to Equal Protection
Individuals have the right not to be subject to discrimination and to be treated as others similarly situated, whether by an employer or by a municipality or government agency.
- The Right to be Free from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
Individuals are to be free from searches and seizures by the government without circumstances warranting such a search, such as prior judicial approval, a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed, exigent circumstances, or consent.
- The Right to Freedom of Speech
Individuals are free to voice their opinions either through words or with actions without governmental interference, subject to a variety of exceptions.
How can someone assert a civil rights claim?
When civil rights are violated, individuals may be able to seek redress through litigation. Litigation may be the best solution to fuel change at a systemic level, especially when a municipality or other governmental entity infringes upon the rights of a group of people.
One route for individuals and groups to seek redress for government deprivations is by bringing a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) in federal court. A Section 1983 claim seeks monetary and/or injunctive relief for violations of Constitutional rights “under color of state law”. These actions may be brought against states, municipalities, and/or their employees for violations of these rights. Section 1983 litigation is often complex and subject to numerous defenses.
Another route to seek redress for government deprivation of civil rights is to challenge a statute or decision directly by, for example, suing for unjust enrichment for the establishment of an illegal tax, or by initiating a special proceeding to challenge an agency decision. These challenges represent effective methods of protecting individuals from municipal conduct, but are also often subject to unique defenses.
Can an individual or group assert civil rights claims against non-governmental entities and individuals?
Private actors, such as employers, may also infringe upon an individual’s rights by, for example, discriminating against their employees or candidates for employment on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability or pregnancy. Several federal statutes, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Equal Pay Act, provide protections for individuals who are discriminated against by their employers.
If I bring a civil rights claim, do I have to pay attorneys’ fees?
Under most civil rights laws, a successful plaintiff is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees. Also, when civil rights actions brought on behalf of a group, or “class”, result in the creation of a monetary fund, the attorneys may be paid out of that fund, subject to court approval. Many law firms will consider bringing these cases on a contingency basis in appropriate circumstances.