Understanding Section 1983 And Section 1985 Cases

Our constitutional rights are perhaps some of the most important — and well-known — protections afforded to us by federal law. Unfortunately, public officials and entities have been known to deprive individuals of their rights, resulting in violations that can prove incredibly damaging.

Whether a civil rights violation occurred because of the misconduct of a public official or because of a government conspiracy to interfere with an individual's civil rights, victims can seek legal remedy under federal law.

While these cases can be incredibly complex and difficult to argue in federal court, the attorneys at Mills, Mills, Fiely & Lucas not only have the experience and skill necessary to handle these types of cases, they also have the dedication and acumen necessary to seek positive outcomes.

What Are 1983 And 1985 Cases?

The terms "1983 cases" and "1985 cases" refer to lawsuits filed by individuals whose civil rights have been violated by public officials. The terms are named as such because of the United States Code (U.S.C.) from which these cases derive: 42 U.S.C § 1983 and 42 U.S.C § 1985.

Anyone who holds a public office — such as police, judges, law clerks, social workers and other public officials — can be named in these types of cases as well as government entities.

Section 1983 Cases

Section 1983 cases are perhaps the most common civil rights lawsuits filed in the United States because they involve the violation of an individual's civil rights. Common violations include:

  • First Amendment — The freedom of speech, press, religion, the right to assemble and petition the government.
  • Fourth Amendment — Protection against unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause or a warrant.
  • Fifth Amendment — The right to a grand jury for capital offenses, and the prohibition of double jeopardy convictions and self-incrimination during an investigation.
  • Sixth Amendment — Protects the right to a fair and speedy trial by a jury of your peers as well as the right to confront accusers, receive notification of accusations, obtain witnesses in defense and retain legal counsel.
  • Fourteenth Amendment — Protection of your right to due process and equal protection of the law.

Examples of Section 1983 cases often include police misconduct, failure to take action when the law demands, child protective service removals without probable cause, and abuse of office, just to name a few.

Section 1985 Cases

While Section 1985 cases involve the violation of an individual's civil rights, these types of cases involve two or more people and "conspiracy to interfere," which is more or less defined as an attempt to prevent, intimidate, threaten or force someone in a way that impedes on their civil rights.

Examples can include but are not limited to:

  • Preventing or obstructing someone from performing their duties of office
  • Discharging someone from office so he or she cannot perform their duties
  • Preventing a witness or juror from performing their civic duties
  • Obstructing justice
  • Depriving someone of their rights and privileges under state and federal law

Immunity Issues In 1983 And 1985 Actions

One of the biggest defenses against 1983 and 1985 actions is qualified immunity. This is a doctrine that provides protection to public officials in civil rights actions. If there is evidence the public official was exercising his or her discretionary duties at the time of the alleged violation, they may not be held liable for damages suffered as a result of the violation.

Qualified immunity creates considerable hurdles for plaintiffs not only because it can prevent the collection of damages after a civil rights violation, the full scope of the doctrine has now been extended to the private sector — as in the case of private prisons and its corrections officers — which only adds an additional layer of complexity to these already challenging cases.

Our Attorneys Will Stand Up For Your Rights

At Mills, Mills, Fiely & Lucas, we are committed to standing up for the rights of people throughout Ohio who have been deprived of their constitutional rights. We are experienced trial attorneys who have and are currently handling several high-end cases involving civil rights violations.

If your civil rights were violated by a public official either because of misconduct or conspiracy, our attorneys can help you file a 1983 or 1985 action and seek recovery of damages. To reach our Canton office, call 330-754-1888, or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.