FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!

Web Only : Extra

Making a Federal Case

September 01, 2005  |  by - Also by this author

In the 1961 case of Monroe v. Pape, the Monroe family filed suit against the Chicago PD and several individual officers for an illegal search of their home and an unlawful detention of Mr. Monroe. And they won. But the city of Chicago appealed all the way to the Supreme Court arguing that the Monroes could only sue the officers and not the city. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city.

Still, Monroe was a very important case. It marked the first time that a major police department had been sued for a federal civil rights violation and the plaintiffs prevailed. Some 20 odd years later, the Supreme Court changed its mind in the Monell case. The details of Monell don't really involve law enforcement. However, the decision in Monell made government entities vulnerable to civil rights lawsuits that stem from the actions of their employees.

The plaintiffs in both Monell and Monroe contended that their civil rights had been violated and filed suit under a Reconstruction-era law (The Ku Klux Act of 1871) that was still on the books as Article 42, Section 1983. In a nutshell, this law says that government employees are civilly liable if they deny a person his or her civil rights while on duty. It was a good thing.

But Congress decided it wasn't enough of a good thing, so in 1976, it passed the Civil Rights Attorney Fee Award Act. This law was added to the U.S. Code as Title 42, Section 1988. And what it does is basically make it really profitable for attorneys to sue government entities for civil rights violations.

Attorneys representing clients in basic tort cases usually score about 35 to 40 percent of the award if their client wins a judgment. In Section 1983 civil rights cases not only do prevailing plaintiff attorneys collect a percentage of their clients' award, they can also submit a bill to the court and, basically, the defendant has to pay it. In some cases, these attorney's fees have exponentially exceeded the size of damages awarded to the plaintiff.

Section 1988 is why the overwhelming majority of lawsuits filed against police officers and their agencies include both state and federal causes of action. It codifies windfall profits for personal injury and criminal lawyers who dabble in suing cops.

Tags: Cops Getting Sued


Be the first to comment on this story





POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Stories

Beyond CIT
When it comes to the mentally ill, many police departments are finding themselves...
Inside the Mind of a Cold Case Detective
The first thing a good investigator, especially a cold case investigator, needs to know is...
Concerns of Police Survivors Healing Hearts
Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) welcomes with open arms those who have suffered...

Get Your FREE Trial Issue and Win a Gift! Subscribe Today!
Yes! Please rush me my FREE TRIAL ISSUE of POLICE magazine and FREE Officer Survival Guide with tips and tactics to help me safely get out of 10 different situations.

Just fill in the form to the right and click the button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.

If POLICE does not satisfy you, just write "cancel" on the invoice and send it back. You'll pay nothing, and the FREE issue is yours to keep. If you enjoy POLICE, pay only $25 for a full one-year subscription (12 issues in all). Enjoy a savings of nearly 60% off the cover price!

Offer valid in US only. Outside U.S., click here.
It's easy! Just fill in the form below and click the red button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.
First Name:
Last Name:
Rank:
Agency:
Address:
City:
State:
  
Zip Code:
 
Country:
We respect your privacy. Please let us know if the address provided is your home, as your RANK / AGENCY will not be included on the mailing label.
E-mail Address:

Police Magazine