About Civil Rights


Civil rights and civil liberties lawyers advocate in court for the protection and expansion of the rights and liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and by legislation. Civil rights lawyers can be involved in a wide range of cases, including allegations of discrimination and challenges to laws that restrict constitutional liberties.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin including courthouses, parks, restaurants, theaters, sports arenas and hotels.

First proposed by President John F Kennedy it survived strong opposition from southern members of Congress and was then signed into law by Kennedy’s successor Lyndon Johnson. In subsequent years, Congress expanded the act and passed additional civil rights legislation such as the Voting Act of 1965.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars race, religious, national origin and gender discrimination by employers and labor unions, and created an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with the power to file lawsuits on behalf of workers.

Additionally, the act also forbids the use of federal funds for any discriminatory program, authorized the Office of Education (now the Department of Education) to assist with school desegregation, gave extra powers to the Commission on Civil Rights and prohibited the unequal application of voting requirements.

Civil Rights vs. Civil Liberties

Civil rights are not the same as civil liberties. The concept of civil rights has traditionally dealt with the right to be free from unfair and unequal treatment based on protected characteristics. Civil liberties are broader and are guaranteed by the Constitution or by other federal laws. These include the rights to free speech, privacy, and to vote.

The Legislation Federal, State & Municipal

Most laws guaranteeing and regulating civil rights originate at the federal level:

  • Age Discrimination Act of 1975 – Prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs and activities that receive federal assistance such as educational programs, health care services, housing, welfare, food stamps, and rehabilitation programs.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) – Prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees over the age of 40 in terms of compensation, advancement opportunities, and other employment conditions.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability (real and perceived) in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Far-reaching legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the areas of employment, education, voting, and public accommodations.
  • Fair Housing Act (FHA) – Prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – The first disability civil rights legislation passed in the United States, it prohibits discrimination against disabled people in programs receiving federal financial assistance.
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965 – Enacted to address Jim Crow laws in the Deep South and other barriers minorities faced when trying to participate in elections; key provisions of the Act were removed by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Civil rights also come from federal court decisions (such as those handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, including the landmark Brown vs Board of Education decision.

States can also pass their own civil rights laws through each state constitution and other laws. The state laws can also be more protective of civil rights than their federal equivalents, including protections for people who identify as LGBTQ.
Municipalities like cities and counties can also enact ordinances and laws related to civil rights.

Violation of Rights & Attorneys

If your think that civil rights have been violated in any way, you may find that have a valid legal claim for damages.

Important decisions related to your case can be very complicated including understanding which laws will apply to your particular situation and who is responsible for any harm you may have suffered.

Civil rights lawsuits can be the most legally challenging and complicated cases. For example The U.S. Supreme Court has severely limited the rights that people have when prosecutors or police officers mistreat them across the U.S. Because of the Supreme Court opinions, the courts have dismissed hundreds of civil rights without ever being heard by juries.

An experienced civil rights attorney is the best person to evaluate all aspects of your case and explain the legal options available to you, in order to ensure the best possible outcome.

Civil Rights Cases

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner, Pete Hernandez, was indicted for the murder of one Joe Espinosa by a grand jury in Jackson County, Texas. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court. Tex. Cr. R. , 251 S. W. 2d 531. Prior to the trial, the petitioner, by his counsel, offered timely motions to quash the indictment and the jury panel. He alleged that persons of Mexican descent were systematically excluded from service as jury commissioners,1 grand jurors, and petit jurors, although there were such persons fullyclick to see more

Gomillion v. Lightfoot

JONES, Circuit Judge.

The Legislature of Alabama passed a statute which changed the boundaries of the City of Tuskegee in Macon County of that State, Acts 1957, p. 185. The boundary changes reduced the area of the municipality. The plaintiffs, appellants here, are Negroes. They brought a class suit in the District Court for the Middle District of Alabama against the Mayor, the members of the City Council, and the Chief of Police of the City of Tuskegee, and the members of the Board of Revenue, the Sheriff, and the Judge of Probate of Macon County, and the City of Tuskegee, alleging that as a result of the realignment of the boundaries most of the Negroes who had formerly lived in the City and substantially all of the Negroes who had been qualified to vote in City elections would no longer reside within the City… click to see more



Upon consideration of the pleadings, the stipulations of the evidence and the arguments of counsel on brief and orally, the Court finds:1. That Richard Perry Loving, one of the plaintiffs herein, is a white person and a member of the Caucasian race; that Mildred Jeter Loving, born Mildred Jeter, the other plaintiff herein, is a colored person and a member of the Negro race; that the plaintiffs prior to June 2, 1958 resided and were domiciled in the State of Virginia; that on June 2, 1958 they went to the District of Columbia for the purpose of being married and intending to return thereafter to the State of Virginia, to reside and cohabit there as man and wife; … click to see more

Shelby County v. Holder

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 employed extraordinary measures to address an extraordinary problem. Section 5 of the Act required States to obtain federal permission before enacting any law related to voting-a drastic departure from basic principles of federalism. And §4 of the Act applied that requirement only to some States-an equally dramatic departure from the principle that all States enjoy equal sovereignty. This was strong medicine, but Congress determined it was needed to address entrenched racial discrimination in voting, “an insidious and pervasive evil which had been perpetuated in certain parts of our country through unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution.”… click to see more

Bostock v. Clayton County



No. 17–1618. Argued October 8, 2019—Decided June 15, 2020* In each of these cases, an employer allegedly fired a long-time employee simply for being homosexual or transgender. Clayton County, Geor- gia, fired Gerald Bostock for conduct “unbecoming” a county employee shortly after he began participating in a gay recreational softball league. Altitude Express fired Donald Zarda days after he mentioned being gay. And R. G. & G. R. Harris Funeral Homes fired Aimee Ste- phens, who presented as a male when she was hired, after she in- formed her employer that she planned to “live and work full-time as a woman.” Each employee sued, alleging sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964... click to see more


Lawyer Reviewed Cases

Young v. Hobart West Group

reviewed by Mullen Law Firm

Plaintiff, Carol A. Young, filed a four count complaint in the Law Division against defendants, The Hobart West Group (Hobart) and Larry Aitken, alleging wrongful termination from her employment as a regional executive (RE) for Hobart in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), …in count one on the basis of her gender… click to see more

Civil Rights Stories

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