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Justice for George Floyd: Holding Police Accountable Through Civil Rights Litigation

June 4, 2020  |  civil rights, justice

              Now, more than ever, the spotlight is on our nation’s police officers.  On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died while in the custody of Minneapolis police after an officer pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, causing his death. While most police act with integrity, no one should ever suffer the abuse that Mr. Floyd was subjected to at the hands of the Minneapolis officers.

              While the nation cries out for criminal charges against the officers, the lesser publicized civil rights claims are sure to follow.  Civil rights lawsuits can be complicated, as most police and other public officials are protected by some form of immunity, meaning individual officers cannot be sued unless there has been a clear violation of a Constitutional right.  O’Hara, Taylor, Sloan & Cassidy has years of experience in suing governmental entities under the federal statute enabling such lawsuits: 42 USC § 1983. 

Federal Civil Rights Statutes, including 42 U.S.C. §1983 provide a powerful means of redress for constitutional grievances and injuries inflicted by the government.  Proving a § 1983 claim requires the plaintiff to prove that a person, acting under color of state law, has subjected the plaintiff or caused the plaintiff to be subjected to the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.  These types of civil claims can include police brutality, excessive force, prison abuse, unlawful search and seizure, false arrest, and/or freedom of speech violations.  While a claim for wrongful death falls under state law, it may be, and often is, included in the federal lawsuit.

In police brutality cases, the parties typically name as defendants the specific officers that harmed the victim (in both their individual and official capacities). Although the standard of proof is higher, a Sheriff, Chief, supervisor, or the local government agency itself may also be held liable if their actions or policies are shown to be ultimately responsible for the officer’s misconduct.  Supervisory officers or department heads may be found liable through unconstitutional internal policies or practices, absence of any policies which lead to the constitutional violation, or a Sheriff’s/Chief’s ratification of unconstitutional behavior through failure to effectively discipline the officers.

There have been several recent police brutality cases where surviving families have sought justice through civil rights litigation under 42 USC § 1983. Some of these high-profile victims include Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Jr., Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and Alton Sterling.

We never want these avoidable types of injuries to occur to anyone, anywhere. However, if you have been a victim of police or other governmental misconduct, you should know that Federal and State civil rights laws are there to protect you and provide a way to obtain compensation and other relief for your injuries and losses.  O’Hara, Taylor, Sloan & Cassidy has years of experience in litigating claims against police officers and governmental entities under federal civil rights laws that protect the rights of all individuals in America. We have a history of pursuing justice for individuals injured through constitutional violations caused by various governmental officials and firmly believe that no one is above the law. 

If you or a loved one has suffered harm because of the misconduct of police, jail/prison officials, or other governmental employees, please contact an attorney experienced in handling such complicated litigation.  Our firm has many years of experience handling these cases. Let our experience help you achieve the justice you deserve.