Civil Rights Law FAQ

1. Q. What is Civil Rights Law?

A. Civil Rights law protects the civil rights of individuals – such as the right to free speech or the right to vote.  It also governs litigation which may result as a violation of civil rights.


2. Q. Can I sue someone if my rights have been violated?

A. It’s virtually unheard of to sue an individual for violating your civil rights.  For instance, if someone stops you from holding a speech in their yard – you cannot sue them for the violation of your rights.  However, you may be able to sue a government employee or other individuals of authority who violate your civil rights.


3. Q. I know that a government employee may have consequences if they violate my rights while ‘acting under the color of the law,’ but I’m not sure what this means.

A. When a person is acting under the color of the law, they are doing what they are doing because they’re doing their job.  For instance, if a police officer arrests you, he or she is acting under the color of the law.


4. Q. If a person is turned down from attending a school based on their race, is this a violation of civil rights?

A. Yes, it can be.  The hard part is proving that the individual was refused entrance to the school based on their race or other discriminating factors.  In this case, it would be important to speak to an attorney to determine whether you have a case or not and how to proceed.


5. Q. What is the compensation one seeks when suing because their civil rights have been violated?

A. The person suing will either receive monetary compensation or injunctive relief.  This means that someone (typically a government organization such as the police or courts) will stop the violator from violating your civil rights.


6. Q. Should I hire an attorney?

A. If you feel as though your civil rights have been violated in some way, it’s best to at least speak to an attorney knowledgeable in this area of the law.  An attorney can let you know whether or not you have a case and how you should proceed.


7. Q. What is immunity exactly, when it comes to civil rights laws?

A. Immunity protects some individuals from action being taken against them.  For instance, judges who are doing their jobs are typically given immunity to protect them from being sued or from action being taken against them.


8. Q. If I have a case against an individual or organization, can I ask that they pay attorney’s fees along with other compensation?

A. Yes.  Typically individuals who are suing other individuals or organizations do ask for attorney’s fees.  This is something you should discuss with your attorney if you are currently involved in a lawsuit or are considering suing someone.


9. Q. Do prisoners have the same civil rights as everyone else – and can they sue to enforce those rights?

A. Typically, prisoners’ rights differ from the rights of everyone else.  Since the prisoner has committed a crime, he or she is not afforded the same rights as everyone else and may be treated differently.


10. Q. Is there a statute of limitations concerning civil rights?

A. There are different statutes of limitations depending upon what state you live in.  However, it’s very important to speak with an attorney as soon as you feel as though your civil rights have been violated.  This way you do not risk losing the right to seek compensation.