Moving civil rights forward

From a firing for speaking out to a false arrest, if a government agency violates your rights, you can find help in a law that dates to Reconstruction.

Part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Section 1983 lets people sue if a government official violates their Constitutional rights. At Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, we are ready to put this powerful tool to work. For our civil rights lawyers, it’s not just a matter of doing right by one person. It’s also a matter of holding the government accountable. It’s a way to take a stand against injustice.

Moving civil rights forward
Section 1983 covers more than Constitutional rights. It also applies violations of rights established in any federal law – the Americans with Disabilities Act, for example.

It can cover federal, state, county, city, or town governments as well as to officials acting “under the color of state” law. Though Section 1983 also is known as the Ku Klux Klan law, because that was its target when it was passed, its use isn’t restricted to racially motivated cases.

Section 1983 often comes into play in cases of police brutality or excessive force, but it also covers many other situations. Violations that result in financial loss or other damages also are covered. It applies not just to one-time actions but also to practices over time. These can include:

  • Discrimination in issuing government permits or licenses
  • Racial profiling
  • Abuse of power
  • Equal protection claims, when one class of people is treated differently than another
  • Wrongful termination involving violation of free speech rights or freedom of religion
  • Malicious prosecution.

People who successfully sue for civil rights violations under Section 1983 can recover compensatory damages that include lost wages, medical expenses or emotional distress. They can receive punitive damages, as well, in cases involving gross negligence or reckless indifference.

Section 1983 is a complicated area of the law, in part because it has so many possible applications. It’s powerful as well as challenging.

At Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, our civil rights attorneys are prepared to take on these challenges. We’re committed to seeking justice for one as well as justice for all. We have the skills, knowledge and experience to live up to that commitment.