U.S. laws protect citizens from unjust discrimination based on race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, religion, and disability. Civil rights include the right to free speech, religion, and assembly, as well as the right to petition the government, the right to procedural due process, the right to innocence until proven guilty, and the right to remain silent. People file civil rights lawsuits for unreasonable searches and seizures, cruel and unusual punishment, loss of employment or promotion due to discrimination, abuse by a public official, police brutality, or any discrimination based on superficial qualities or beliefs. While these freedoms are clearly spelled out in United States law, Americans may need the help of a civil rights lawyer to enforce the law and protect these interests in court.
Do You Need A Civil Rights Lawyer?
Technically, you can file a lawsuit as a self-represented litigant. Every year, millions of plaintiffs file on their own, without a lawyer. However, it’s not recommended for a number of reasons. Here’s why you need a civil rights attorney:
- Your opponent has a lawyer.
If you’re suing an employer, retail business, police department, college, or other entity, rest assured they’ve got legal counsel protecting their assets. Their legal counsel is helping them exploit every possible loophole in the system. They’re taking a fine-tooth comb to your story to find ways to get a summary judgement to throw out the case without a hearing. With enough resources, the opposition can hire professionals you’ve never met to call your credibility into question and disparage your reputation. On the other hand, if you hire a lawyer, you’ll be on an even playing field to fight these accusations and wage war of your own.
- A lawyer makes the difference between winning and losing.
In some types of cases, not having legal counsel can make a dramatic difference. For instance, in New York City housing disputes, 90% of the landlords are represented by law firms, whereas 90% of tenants are not. The end result is that self-represented tenants are evicted nearly 50 percent of the time. With a lawyer, they win compensation 90 percent of the time.
- The paperwork and protocol are overwhelming!
Even the most seemingly straightforward legal matters require dozens of steps. In one study, researchers identified 200 discrete tasks that self-represented litigants must perform in civil cases, including finding the right court, filing motions, compiling evidence, and negotiating a settlement.
- Tasks may require specialized knowledge of the law and the court system in general.
There are eight major civil rights laws in the United States, enacted in 1866, 1871, 1875, 1957, 1960, 1964, 1968 and 1991. On top of that, each state has its own civil code of laws and penalties for breaking them. Some judges and jurors are more sympathetic to civil rights cases than others. The success of a civil rights case often involves constructing the right legal argument, so you need to know all the subtle intricacies and every possible grounds to sue. Sometimes you can succeed on multiple levels, but you have to know which angles are most likely to prevail.
- You need to actually show up to represent your interests.
Self-represented litigation involves numerous appearances, which means time away from work and the need to secure childcare. You’ll need reliable transportation to and from the courthouse. If you do not speak English as a first language, you’ll need access to a translator. Missing one step, deadline, or appearance could mean you have to start the whole process over again or may result in case dismissal without option to refile. A law firm can send representatives to meetings and courthouses on your behalf, so you don’t have to worry about it.
What Can You Expect from Your Civil Rights Lawyer?
Working with a civil rights attorney begins with a case review, which is offered free of charge at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green. From there, your lawyer will decide whether or not to represent your case, and you can decide if you feel comfortable enough with the legal team to take the next step.
Once you’ve retained a civil rights attorney, your lawyer will:
- Cover the cost of filing the lawsuit and all other related fees during the litigation.
- Interview you, witnesses, the defendant, and any other parties involved in the case.
- Prepare depositions to use as testimonial evidence.
- Handle correspondence with the opposition, speaking professionally on your behalf.
- File motions, briefs, documents, and discovery plans with the court.
- Hire experts to testify and lend credibility to your case.
- Engage the other side in settlement negotiations outside the court room.
- Present your case before judge and jury if necessary.
- Advise you whether to accept a fair settlement or hold out for greater compensation.
Are You Worried You Can’t Afford a Lawyer for Your Civil Rights Case?
People who have had their civil rights violated may suffer heavy losses due to medical bills, lost employment, disability, wrongful death of a family breadwinner, or emotional pain. That is why we offer FREE CASE REVIEWS and legal representation on a contingency basis with NO UPFRONT LEGAL FEES. If we fail to win your case, you owe us nothing. If we are successful, we take the industry standard legal fee, a previously agreed-upon percentage of your settlement or award. Hiring an attorney is more likely to result in maximum compensation, so you walk away with more in your pocket than you would have attempting to navigate the legal maze alone. Contact a New York City civil rights lawyer at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley to explore your legal options today. Most cases are subject to deadlines called “statutes of limitations,” so don’t delay.