Constitutional law is a complex area of federal law because it deals with fundamental rights, or rights that the United States Supreme Court has held in the highest regard. Civil rights cases can be complicated because the plaintiff (victim alleging the civil rights violation) must get over many procedures that may influence the outcome including:

Qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a judge-made law which protects individuals from liability for civil rights violations if the right had not been ‘clearly established’ at the time of the incident. In the Eleventh Circuit, the court reviews case law from the Georgia Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court to determine whether the defendants have notice that their actions would violate federal civil rights.

Official immunity. In Georgia, state employees are often immune from liability from civil rights lawsuits if the employee was performing duties within the scope of his or her employment.

Sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity protects states from being sued unless there is a valid abrogation of their immunity. Often times, abrogation occurs when the statute explicitly says that the state can be sued. Sovereign immunity can also be abrogated when the state accepts federal funds, and the funds are conditioned upon compliance with federal civil rights statutes.

Statutes of limitations. Cases pursuant to Section 1983 must be brought within 2 years of the alleged constitutional violation.

Evidence of discrimination. In other words, the plaintiff has to prove that the non-discriminatory reason alleged by the defendant is false.

Notice Requirements. If you are planning to sue a city, county, or state, you likely have to submit notice of the claim to the local government agency 6-12 months following the incident. If you fail to provide proper anti-litem notice, you could be prohibited from bringing your case.

Fair Housing Act

Our office also handles Fair Housing Act claims.  It is illegal to discriminate in the sale, rental, or other housing-related activities. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.  Some examples of illegal discrimination in the sale of real property include:

  • assessing higher APR rates for black or brown mortgage applicants who are otherwise qualified for a lower APR rate
  • refusing to provide reasonable accommodations to a tenant with disabilities
  • denying a rental application because the applicants are a same sex couple
  • filing an eviction after discovering a tenant practices the Muslim faith
  • declining an application from a family based on the number of children they have
  • retaliating against an individual after they complain of housing discrimination
  • discriminatory enforcement of HOA rules

If you believe you may have been discriminated in the sale or rental of a home, you can contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or Metro Fair Housing Services to file a complaint.  They will ask for the details of your experience and may launch an investigation to determine if a violation of the Fair Housing Act has occurred.  You can also hire an attorney to file a lawsuit in federal court to seek compensatory, punitive, and attorney’s fees.

Section 1981

Our firm handles 42 U.S. Code § 1981 (Section 1981) claims. Section 1981 prohibits discrimination in the creation of legal contracts (e.g. business contracts, leases, etc.). Discrimination can occur in the denial of the contract opportunity, the performance of contract terms, or the cancellation or termination of a contract. A denial of opportunity discriminatory matter may exist when a black owned vendor’s bid is not considered after the company discovers that the owner is a black woman.

One example of contract performance discrimination can occur in the banking context. The banking relationship is typically governed by an account terms and conditions contract. If the bank fails to provide those services in accordance with the contract (i.e. policies and procedures), and the reason for non-performance is discrimination, a Section 1981 claim may exist. Finally, a contract termination discrimination case could exist where a bakery rescinds the completion of a baking contract of 150 cupcakes after the owner discovers that the cupcakes will be used at a Juneteenth celebration.

Eighth Amendment Rights

People who are Incarcerated

Eighth Amendment
The Eighth Amendment protects individuals who are incarcerated from being punished in cruel ways. Courts have found that denial of medical treatment, denial of food or water, and/or denial of access to bathing facilities for extended periods of time can violate the Eighth Amendment.​

One of the most difficult aspects of Eighth Amendment lawsuits, is an administrative exhaustion requirement called the Prison Litigation Reform Act or the PLRA. The PRLA requires that incarcerated individuals exhaust the grievance process at the prison or jail prior to being able to file a lawsuit.

If an incarcerated individual fails to complete the grievance and appeals processes, the lawsuit could be dismissed by the court. Unfortunately, the grievance process can be complicated to navigate. Some issues are not “grievable” and others have specific deadlines. For example, if you fail to file an appeal within 10 days of the decision, you may forgo your opportunity to file an appeal altogether.

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