Civil Rights

Civil Rights Law Exists to Protect You

One of the bedrock principles of our system of government is that each and every one of us contributes to it in some way for the betterment of society. As a reward for participating in our government, we are guaranteed certain fundamental rights that generally cannot be taken away from us without very good reasons. This is known as Civil Rights. So if government officials overstep their authority and take away your fundamental rights without justification, you may be able to sue them for the damages you suffered as a result.

For example, statutes such as the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (codified as 42 U.S.C. § 1983) allow you to sue agents of state or local governments who have improperly deprived you of your federally-guaranteed rights. Common § 1983 claims include:

  • Improper separation of children and parents;
  • Excessive use of force by police officers;
  • Unwarranted searches;
  • Unwarranted seizures;
  • Unwarranted medical examinations; or
  • Unwarranted interrogations

Consider this in the context of social workers who improperly separate children from parents. It is only appropriate to remove a child from her parents if she would be placed in danger by remaining with them. Destroying a family is not to be taken lightly and should only take place if it is truly the lesser of two evils. So when a social worker does abuse their power and separates a child from her parents without carefully balancing the costs and benefits of doing so, both that child and her parents may have a claim against that social worker under § 1983.

In Arizona, § 1983 also permits you to sue social workers who do not intercede when they observe one of their colleagues violating a person’s constitutional rights or who set in motion a series of acts by their colleagues which they reasonably should know would cause them to violate a person’s constitutional rights.

How We Can Help

We understand that being the victim of a civil rights violation can leave you feeling helpless and betrayed. Typically, when you are wronged, you turn to the government to make you whole (Torts/Civil Litigation). But it is not so straightforward when it is the government itself who wrongs you. The law firm of GillespieShields takes seriously the need for consequences when government disregards fundamental rules intended to protect constitutionally guaranteed liberties.

Please note, however, that we only pursue civil rights claims relating to misconduct by social workers, not police officers. If you believe a police officer has used excessive force against you or has subjected you to an unconstitutional search, seizure, or interrogation, please contact a firm which specializes in such matters.  Finally, please be aware that civil rights claims against social workers are generally very complex cases. If you would like to meet with an attorney to determine whether your particular case is worth pursuing, please schedule a consultation with us today.

Sources: Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000); West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988); Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167 (1961); Wallis v. Spencer, 202 F.3d 1126 (9th Cir. 2000); Cunningham v. Gates, 229 F.3d 1271 (9th Cir. 2000); Merritt v. Mackey, 827 F.2d 1368 (9th Cir. 1987).

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