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Ed Shaw Law No Nonsense Legal Advice

Local Solutions For Local Problems

Section 1983

by | Apr 15, 2024 | Firm News |

This month is the 153rd anniversary of the passage of Section 1983. It is a federal law that most people have never heard of, but they usually have heard of famous cases involving police or government officials being sued under the law for misconduct or abuse of citizens. When Section 1983 was passed in 1871 it was intended to protect citizens in the south of the country, newly liberated from slavery from attacks by racist pro confederate local governments and police who often tried to prevent newly freed Black citizens from exercising their basic rights. Local officials and police in the south often attacked and killed Black citizens and white allies who supported civil rights. Section 1983 gives citizens the right to sue state and local governments for violation of their federal civil rights by state and local government employees. Now Section 1983 is often used to bring legal actions against police officers for using excessive force. Rodney King sued the Los Angeles Police Department for beating him nearly to death in 1991. 29 years later, in 2020 the family of George Floyd, who was murdered by a Minneapolis Police officer sued under Section 1983. In the years between those two cases thousands of other Section 1983 lawsuits have been filed and they continue to be filed to this day. Our office has filed two cases within the last few months. One would hope that police departments would for lack of a better word, have learned to police themselves so that these types of lawsuits would no longer be necessary. Until that happens, my office and others will continue to use Section 1983 to help hold officers accountable.



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