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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Police Brutality Violating Federal Law Section 1983

Recent news reporting of police brutality has resulted in many persons having a heightened interest in Federal Law regarding abuses by persons acting under color of state law, particularly in regards to racial bias, following George Floyd’s death on May 25th, a black man who died in police custody following a brutal police assault that was captured in a bystander video which went viral. The deprivation of rights by police officers is prohibited in many state statutes and in the Federal Statute, 42 USCS § 1983. When a person is acting in an official government capacity, such as a police officer, he is acting under “color of state law.” A police officer does not have to be on the clock or in uniform to be acting under  “color of state law.” If off-duty police officers flash their badge to represent they are acting within the scope of their police authority, their acts may still be covered under 42 USCS § 1983. This section of the US Code originated out of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 which gave the President power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to fight white supremacy organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan during the Era of Reconstruction. 

Although General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate troops to the Union’s Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House, Virginia,  this was not the end, but the beginning of the end of the American Civil War. The Civil War actually ended 16 months later because many southern state insurrections followed.  President Johnson declared  a presidential proclamation issued on April 2, 1866,  that the insurrections that had existed in Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama,  Louisiana, Virginia, Florida, and Georgia, had ended. The remaining exception was Texas. 

Later that summer, President Johnson  issued a proclamation on August 20, 1866, formally announcing the end of the Civil War and declared that the insurrection in Texas had been  suppressed, "And I do further proclaim that the said insurrection is at an end and that peace, order, tranquility, and civil authority now exists in and throughout the whole of the United States of America." He stated "adequate provisions had been made by military orders to enforce the execution of the acts of Congress, aid the civil authorities and secure obedience to the Constitution and the laws of the United States in the state of Texas."

Section 1983 Arose in Response to Continuing Violent Racist Acts During the Era of Reconstruction Following End of American Civil War

Violent racist acts against Black Americans continued during the Era of Reconstruction following the end of the Civil War as Ku Klux Klan became very active during this period. These violent acts and suppression of civil rights of Black Americans gave rise to what is now known as Section 1983.  Federal law, 42 USCS § 1983 was originally enacted as the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and was the last of three Enforcement Acts during the Reconstruction Era passed by the United States Congress from 1870 to 1871 to counter attacks upon and resistance to the civil rights of Black Americans. There was a failure by many state governments to prosecute the Ku Klux Klansmen for their heinous crimes against Black Americans, as chronicled. 

President Ulysses S. Grant received reports of racial acts widespread  in the deep Southern states. In response, he  asked Congress to pass this legislation,  and it passed within one month of when he sent the request to Congress. President Grant believed that he needed to have his authority broadened before he could effectively intervene in the continuing acts of racism by states, both by the states’ laws and their failure to act,  and persons acting under the color of law such as law officers. The Act which was signed into law on April 20, 1871 by President Grant. The Act was the last of three Enforcement Acts passed by the US Congress during the Reconstruction Era to fight the continuing racist acts, discrimination, and violations of civil rights of Blacks by state laws and persons acting under the color of law. After the Act's passage, the president had the power for the first time to both suppress state orders on his own initiative and to suspend the right of habeas corpus.

During his presidency, President Grant used this authority, and as a result the first era KKK slowed its acceleration until it regained momentum in the early 20th century. Although this statute has been the subject of much discussion and interpretation by courts, the statute itself has been subject to only minor changes. Several of its provisions still exist. The most important of these is 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Civil action for deprivation of rights, which reads as follows:

§ 1983. Civil action for deprivation of rights

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

If You Are Thinking of Simply Resigning.

If you are thinking of simply resigning because of race discrimination in your workplace and/or because you notified your employer about racial harassment and no action was taken, you should contact an attorney experienced in employment law before you do so, to explore your legal options in the safest way for you.

What You Can Do.

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing persons who were subjected to racial harassment and retaliation in the workplace and/or were fired. If you have experienced racism at work, or if you reported it and no action was taken, if you are thinking of resigning, or think you will be fired, or have been fired, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in discrimination.

If you are being subjected to workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in Central, western and northern NJ to meet with clients.



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