Civil Rights

Civil Rights

The Law Office of Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma advocates for people who are victims of serious civil rights abuses. "Civil rights law" refers to lawsuits brought under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, which traces its roots back to 1871. The Civil Rights Act specifically creates a remedy for violations of the United States Constitution, which protects all people in America from abuses of power at the hands of the police, prison guards, and other government officials. The Civil Rights Act lets individuals sue when state actors use excessive force, engage in false arrest or malicious prosecution, deliberately ignore serious health or safety risks of prisoners, or illegally curtail free speech. There are also remedies available against federal officials and under various state laws.

However, civil rights litigation has many pitfalls. The courts have found that many public officials are immune from suit under the Civil Rights Act. Other officials enjoy "qualified immunity," meaning they cannot be sued even if they broke the law so long as they are found to have acted "reasonably." There are strict limits on prisoner lawsuits that were imposed in the Prison Litigation Reform Act that was passed in 1996 as part of a wider crackdown on habeas corpus and immigration procedures. Court procedures are complicated and relatively few attorneys practice in this area.

If you have suffered a serious injury because of misconduct by a public official, you need an experienced civil rights advocate on your side. We can evaluate your case at no charge. We typically do not charge a fee until you recover money for your injuries. We are dedicated to obtaining compensation for people who have been abused by public officials. We take pride in treating our clients with honesty, courtesy, professionalism and respect. If your rights have been violated under the law, we will fight hard to make sure you receive every penny you are entitled to. While past results are no guarantee of future outcomes, our office has won millions of dollars for our clients whose rights have been violated by police and corrections officers working for the City of New York. Some of this money has come from settlements. Some of it has come after a trial. None of it comes easily: the City fights hard to prevent people from recovering, and only settles when there is a clear case of misconduct.

The links below provide further details on how to recover for wrongful convictions, police excessive use of force, prison injuries, and infringements of free speech. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured as a victim of a civil rights abuse at the hands of a police officer, corrections officer, or other public employee, please call our office at (212) 685-0999 to discuss legal remedies that might be available to you. Click the links below for specific information on police brutality and misconduct, prisoners rights, and First Amendment protections for journalists and bloggers.

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