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Governments make laws that protect our civil rights, but sometimes government agencies violate them. Whether you were wronged at the hand of a public or private entity, knowing that it’s a civil rights issue and what civil rights lawyers do is essential to understanding how to seek help.
What Is a Civil Rights Lawyer?
The Constitution, law, and court decisions grant civil liberties and civil rights. A civil rights attorney’s job is to protect people when those rights are violated. That job is easier when the law clearly outlines protected classes and actions. But, in some cases, civil rights attorneys fight for people in the gray areas.
A passion for helping and protecting people drives some attorneys who handle civil rights cases. A civil attorney may operate in private practice or work in the civil rights division of a state or federal agency.
Key Principles and Protections Under Civil Rights Law
Federal civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, are in the Constitution. Civil rights are based on laws passed at the national and state level to ensure people are treated equally. The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example, prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
The Virginia Human Rights Act also protects the state’s citizens. It adds protections beyond those offered in federal law, and people in Virginia whose rights are violated can file suit based on its provisions.
Discussions on civil liberties versus civil rights, what our basic rights should be, and whether human rights laws should be applied universally are best left for debate in the classroom and other forums. Civil rights attorneys work within our laws and sometimes help create new ones.
The Scope of a Civil Rights Attorney
Civil rights attorneys give legal advice and handle a wide range of cases in which people were denied their rights. Some attorneys operate solely in state courts, some in federal, and others in both, all the way to the Supreme Court.
Advocating for Constitutional Rights
Many civil rights are laid out in the Constitution’s first ten amendments, also called the Bill of Rights, and further expanded in the 14th, 15th, and 16th Amendments. For example, if someone violates your freedom of expression, religion, or due process, you can contact a federal civil rights attorney for help.
A violation of your civil rights can occur in any setting. As long as you are a member of a class of people protected under the law, a civil rights attorney can help hold the violator responsible. Constitutional law is complex, and if you doubt whether your rights were violated, consider consulting an experienced attorney.
Under the broader civil rights umbrella, various types of lawyers are within certain specialties. Some lawyers protect clients’ rights by specializing in employment, while others fight against cruel and unusual punishment, unreasonable searches, and other violations.
Filing Civil Lawsuits and Representing Clients
The primary role of civil rights attorneys is to file civil lawsuits and represent their clients in settlement negotiations, court hearings, and trials. They know how long you have to file your suit, who to file it against, the type of evidence you need, and how to make persuasive arguments to help you receive maximum compensation.
Fighting to protect their client’s civil rights is hard in any situation, but civil rights attorneys face tough challenges in cases involving violations by a government agency. Part of the role of government is to protect its citizens. But when a government agency violates civil rights, for example, through an unlawful search, a government attorney tries to protect the offender.
Attorneys who sue over police brutality, prisoner’s rights, and other areas of government agency abuse are taking on an entire department, city, or state. Attorneys also have to overcome any prejudice against clients based on their interactions with the justice system and fight to make sure clients get a fair trial.
The job of civil or human rights attorneys is to present the laws violated, collect strong evidence, and make clear, convincing arguments that a public or private entity harmed their client.
Collaborating With Advocacy Groups and Organizations
Thankfully, civil rights lawyers aren’t the only people who care about protecting people whose rights are violated. Civil rights lawyers often collaborate with like-minded organizations and advocacy groups to enhance their abilities to represent their clients.
Some of these groups are nonprofits that focus on protecting civil rights. Others are local or national groups of attorneys who share information about their cases and best practices. These collaborations contribute to the collective knowledge of everyone involved.
Collaboration can also come in the form of advocacy groups recommending civil rights attorneys it knows to have a history of success in helping plaintiffs win their cases and collect compensation.
How a Richmond Civil Rights Law Firm Can Help
The Commonwealth Law Group has a long history of protecting people in civil rights cases, and we are especially proud of that work. We understand how civil rights affect you and your family, and we channel our outrage at your treatment into building solid cases to win you maximum compensation.
If you or a family member is fighting for civil rights protection, contact the experienced, committed team at Commonwealth Law Group.
If you have been injured at work or through the negligence of another individual or entity, contact us at (804) 999-9999 or or use the form below to connect with our legal team. We will fight to get you the justice you deserve.