Attorneys practicing in this area:

Section 1983 Litigation

Lanier Ford attorneys frequently defend parties sued under the provisions of § 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Congress adopted this law to enforce the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment (adopted in 1868). Although Ku Klux Klan violence and deception motivated its passage, the law is directed toward any government official who is unable or unwilling to enforce the law.

Section 1983 was mostly unused until 1961. That year, only 270 cases were based on this law (1 percent of all cases filed in U.S. district courts that year). Now 40,000 to 50,000 cases a year are based on this law (14 percent of all cases filed each year in U.S. district courts). Although most cases are filed in Federal courts, more cases are now being filed in state courts.

The most frequent plaintiff in a § 1983 case is someone who alleges police misconduct, but other plaintiffs include—

  • Public employees (suing their government employers).
  • Prisoners.
  • Mental patients.
  • Recipients of public benefits.
  • Licensees.
  • Students.
  • Property owners.
  • Anyone claiming that governmental officials have violated constitutional or statutory rights arising from Federal or state law.

Most frequently, the defendants are—

  • Municipal employees.
  • County employees.
  • Local government entities, including public schools, municipal governments, county governments, healthcare authorities, and utilities.

Defendants may also be private parties acting for state or local governments.

Section 1983 cases may involve the following:

  • First Amendment free-speech and free-exercise rules.
  • Fourth Amendment unreasonable-search rule.
  • Fourth Amendment probable-cause rule.
  • Fourth Amendment excessive-force and deadly-force rules.
  • Fifth Amendment due-process issues (including the right to judicial review of an arrest).
  • Sixth Amendment right to counsel (the Miranda rule).
  • Eighth Amendment punishment rules (cruel and unusual punishment, including negligent medical treatment of prisoners).
  • Fourteenth Amendment equal-protection and due-process guarantees.

Lanier Ford attorneys are experienced in defending parties against a wide variety of § 1983 claims. They are especially experienced in asserting the two most important defenses to such claims: governmental immunity and qualified immunity. In addition to many other situations subject to § 1983 claims, Lanier Ford attorneys have defended cases involving the following:

  • Traffic stops.
  • Terry stops (stop and frisk).
  • Arrests and searches without a warrant.
  • Painful handcuffing.
  • Takedowns and tackling.
  • Use of Tasers and pepper spray.
  • Strikes and blows.
  • Deadly force.
  • Retaliatory actions involving arrest, use of force, prosecution, and investigation.

As an example, Lanier Ford attorneys are thoroughly versed in the various legal exceptions to the warrant requirement involved in arrests and searches without a warrant, such as—

  • Exigent circumstances.
  • Evanescence of evidence.
  • Hot pursuit.
  • Plain view.
  • Automobiles.
  • Inventory searches.
  • So-called community caretaker functions (danger to a person in a house).

Lanier Ford is known as a go-to law firm for defending against claims asserted under § 1983.

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