A lot of credence is given to the U.S. Constitution, and for good reason. This document, which serves as the foundation of our country, lays out the basic rights and protections afforded to all individuals. However, as time passes and the world changes, laws must be enacted to clarify the meaning of the constitution and further protect the rights it enumerates.
One powerful law that is often utilized for civil rights litigation is Section 1983 of the federal code. This law essentially states that nobody acting on behalf of the government can deprive any individual of the rights or privileges provided to him or her by the constitution. If a deprivation does occur, then the party who caused the deprivation can be held liable.
The question then becomes what counts as "deprivation," and which rights are given to an individual under the Constitution. These are big legal questions that are constantly being defined and redefined as new cases are heard by the judicial system. However, there are some situations, such as wrongful imprisonment and excessive force by law enforcement, that often serve as the basis for a Section 1983 lawsuit. Other individuals who serve as government actors, such as prosecutors and even child protection workers, can deprive individuals of even the most basic rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Going up against the government in a lawsuit can be daunting, but the rewards can be significant if successful. Not only may compensation be recovered for wrong imposed on a victim, but winning a civil rights lawsuit can help set the stage for better protection of Americans' Constitutional rights. Only by holding the government accountable when justified, though, can we ensure that we uphold the democratic freedoms the Founding Fathers wished to upon us.