Civil rights is defined as “The United States of America’s court-mandated protection from forms of unequal treatment based on race, gender, religion, sex, and more.” The principal foundation of our nation lies within the freedom to choose without influence from the government, so long as our acts fall within the legal ramifications established by our founding fathers and lawmakers today. Without the proper skill set, you may find yourself in the middle of a civil rights matter and in need of a civil rights attorney

Civil Rights: History

Historically, civil rights referred to the movement in our nation led by African-Americans seeking equal treatment from all other ethnicities, particularly Caucasians. Now in order to understand this dilemma, one must keep in mind the decades of prior enslavement led by white males towards African-Americans. Slaves automatically lost their birthrights of freedom and choice upon their forced enlisting into enslavement, which declared them a piece of property. 

Around the same era, other civil rights movements began to gain traction, such as the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination Act. Each movement further focused on customized civil rights within the law. Civil rights originate through federal legislation in addition to federal court decisions, referred to as “case law.” Famous cases such as Brown v. Board of Education declared issues of racism “unconstitutional” after its hearing, and its decision remains today.

Over a decade ago, our country faced an attack from a foreign country’s terrorist organization, which cost many men and women their lives and eventually led to war in the Middle East. 9/11 sparked modern condemnation of minorities when New York was struck with multiple suicide planes in the World Trade Center towers. An eerie justification of discrimination became the norm, so, in response, the U.S. Department of Justice put a plan in place to help prevent backlash against minority communities. An entire website arose to generate information for preventing and reporting discriminatory backlash. 

An unfortunate dilemma that occurs in recent times involves instances of police abuse/brutality toward ordinary citizens. Most famously, the killing of African-American George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer who stood on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. In addition, another famous tragedy occurred in Louisville, Kentucky, when Breonna Taylor, a black medical worker, was fatally shot during a botched raid on her apartment. The police officers involved wore only plain clothes and were found to have fired their weapons without a clear line of sight. These instances triggered a nationwide civil rights movement in the U.S. in an effort not only to seek justice for Floyd and his family but for all who may feel oppressed around the country. 

Police brutality towards people of diverse backgrounds is not a new occurrence, unfortunately, but it reflects a continuation that one may connect with enslaved ancestry. Our modern-day justice system floods prisons across the country with predominantly black men that find troubled lives due to poor opportunity and guidance in their communities. As in any profession, there remains a group of individuals with substandard reputations in the police force, reflecting upon the entire profession as a result. A response to injustice lies within our communities and our government. Without proper leadership in legislation and the law, our citizens may face treatment that opposes individual rights and freedoms provided to them as citizens of the country and its states.   

Both states and the federal government pass their own civil rights laws in addition to counties and municipalities therein. In essence, the further down the ordinance you proceed, the further personalized your civil rights become. Societal dilemmas may trigger an action to consult with a civil rights attorney that possesses the skills to interpret laws concerning your matter. Let us help you today. 

Examples of Civil Rights Violated

Civil rights cover a limited amount of rights protected, and it is important to distinguish whether you indeed became a victim of a civil rights violation. The following examples may help paint a better picture:

  1. You graduate high school with a perfect 4.0 GPA and even better test scores. You apply to your favorite school, but the school’s dean rejects your application due to your skin color. This may qualify as a violation of your civil rights.
  1. You move out of your parents’ house to get your first apartment. The landlord approves your application and wants to meet you in person to sign the lease agreement. The landlord asks you about yourself, and you explain you are a practicing Buddhist who needs a quiet place to live. In response, the landlord says he is no longer interested in signing a lease with you since you are not Catholic. This may qualify as a violation of your civil rights.

The following examples may seem to be a violation of civil rights; however, they may not qualify as such:

  1. You graduate high school with a perfect 4.0 GPA and even better test scores. Your classmate graduates with a 3.9 GPA and even better test scores as well. You learn that the school you both applied to picked your classmate since he comes from a more diverse background. This may not qualify as a violation of your civil rights.
  1. You move out of your parents’ house to get your first apartment. The landlord approves your application and wants to meet you in person to sign the lease agreement. Upon your meeting, the landlord learns you have a dog which makes him change his mind about signing a lease with you. This may not qualify as a violation of your civil rights.

It is important to distinguish between discrimination that violates one’s civil rights and discrimination that simply demonstrates poor judgement. Unfortunately, some forms of discrimination remain perfectly legal and stand no chance to be heard by a court. The characteristics of an individual or group that comply with illegal discrimination involve one’s: age, disability, ethnicity, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Settings in which discrimination occurs matters as well. Discrimination in settings prohibited by the government and its states include education, employment, housing, government services and benefits, health care services, land use/zoning, lending and credit, public accommodations (access to buildings and businesses), transportation, and voting. 

A civil rights violation involving the use of threat or force as a result of intolerance and hate establishes a claim for a hate crime. Hate crimes target individuals of diverse backgrounds in an attempt to intimidate or hurt them simply for their background. Typically, the penalty for those found guilty of hate crimes extends into deeper waters than an ordinary civil rights violation. In the law, the “motive” and “intent” of a perpetrator weigh tremendously towards the court’s considerations when determining punishments. To explain further, someone who hurts an individual for no apparent reason may suffer assault or battery charges as a result of their actions. One who commits violence upon an individual because of their affiliation with a specific ethnic, religious or other identity may be charged with a hate crime if this motive and intent is proven. In some aspects, a hate crime falls within the parameters of terrorism against a particular community, not just one individual. An unfortunate hindrance of hate crimes is that the intent or motive is more challenging to prove in accordance with the facts. Hate crimes must be taken very seriously due to their potential dangers. One who commits a violent act and does so with ill intention becomes a very dangerous individual. In order to combat hate crimes, the FBI created an internet page on hate crime laws and news. This effort aims to keep communities informed while warding off future attempts. Information on how to report hate crimes and discrimination, background information, and more are also included. 

No matter the case, any form of discrimination demonstrates poor behavior in our society. Judgement and certainly discrimination of others must quickly cease for our modern society to succeed, especially since we are made up of individuals from diverse backgrounds. Civil rights began a new era in this country in an effort to stabilize its growing population from across the world. Whether a law firm represents you on a legal matter involving civil rights or a good samaritan stands up for his/her neighbor, the goal remains the same—equal treatment for all.     

Filing a Civil Rights Lawsuit

Filing a civil rights lawsuit requires several procedural steps in addition to the knowledge behind executing such a process. To file a civil rights lawsuit, one must consider who may be responsible for the resulting harm suffered. Civil rights lawsuits may be filed in federal or state courts, depending on the matter at hand. As mentioned above, some states narrow their protection of civil rights established by federal law. For example, one state may focus on protection rights for LGBTQ+ community members, ensuring they receive equal treatment. In addition, your options of where to file a “complaint” may lie within which area the law applies. Regardless, filing a complaint begins a review process by the court to determine whether a civil rights violation occurred, in addition to where the issue will be heard. 

The goal of a complaint lies within the effort to establish responsibility upon the defendants (who you accuse) for committing the violations alleged in your complaint. It may include a list of facts, your interpretation of the facts, and the conclusive evidence solidifying the facts listed. Harm you suffer from the accusations stands as an important measure for the courts to consider. It remains important to remember that you must file a claim with the appropriate government agency for some types of civil rights cases before pursuing any private suit. 

Filing a civil rights lawsuit is made possible by an underappreciated right called “Due Process” provided to us by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The right to Due Process entails the government cannot take away the rights to life, liberty, or property without a formal hearing. Because of this Due Process right, Congress and state legislatures have created complaint processes designed to help you enforce your civil rights.

Hiring a Civil Rights Attorney

Hiring an attorney may seem like a drastic measure for any matter; however, it maximizes one’s chances of succeeding in the law and recovering damages. Without lawyers, our community members may be taken advantage of without knowing their options for protection provided by this great country. Unfortunately, some scenarios require legal aid in order to receive equal treatment in one example and set the tone to ward off future instances in another. 

Civil rights issues within the law prove to cause serious problems within the procedural and community processes. Complicated issues include whether to file in state court or federal court, how to file a “complaint,” whether the violation involved a protected right, which laws apply to the situation at hand, and whether you must first file a claim with the government. In order to correctly navigate through these issues, it remains vital to seek consultation from an experienced civil rights attorney

Why The Cochran Firm 

The attorneys at The Cochran Firm are among the nation’s most successful and tenacious attorneys. When navigating through the legal process, you deserve to have an experienced attorney by your side. The Cochran Firm attorneys know how to fight for you.

Here at The Cochran Firm, our experienced attorneys are ready to help families pursuing civil rights claims. Our attorneys work closely with each of our clients using pooled resources and their access to legal expertise to ensure the most effective legal representation available is provided.

You need the help of an experienced civil rights lawyer who has proven successful results in other similar cases to guide you through the process and help you to receive the monetary damages entitled to you under the law. At The Cochran Firm, we have the offices, the experience, the results, and the resources to aid clients throughout the United States. 

Please contact the civil rights attorneys at The Cochran Firm today for your free, no-obligation initial consultation today.