Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, 2013, December

Civil rights are the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality. These rights are guaranteed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and federal laws enacted by Congress. Some examples of civil rights include the right to vote, the right to a fair trial, the right to government services, the right to a public education, and the right to use public facilities. Additional examples of civil rights include the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 which together protect citizens from, among other things, unlawful discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability in the workplace.

42 U.S.C. Section 1983 is an important federal statute which essentially protects citizens from state and local government actors who deprive them of civil rights established by the United States Constitution or federal law. This statute allows citizens to sue those actors who violate constitutional or federal law while acting under color of state law. A citizen may sue for money damages and injunctive relief. A prime example of such a deprivation of rights occurs when a citizen becomes a victim of police misconduct such as excessive force or wrongful arrest. To obtain a judgment against a municipality under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 a Plaintiff must prove that the municipality itself supported the violation of rights alleged. This is a high standard and calls for skilled legal representation.