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Practice Definitions - Civil Rights
Civil Rights
Civil Rights Law is the area of law protecting those rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, including the right to due process, equal treatment under the law of all people regarding enjoyment of life, liberty, property, and protection.

What is a Civil Right?

A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, assembly, the right to vote, freedom from involuntary servitude, and the right to equality in public places. Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class. Statutes have been enacted to prevent discrimination based on a persons race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin and in some instances sexual preference.

Civil Rights Legislation

The most prominent civil rights legislation since reconstruction is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Decisions of the Supreme Court, at the time, limited Congressional enforcement of the 14th Amendment to state action. Since 1964 the Supreme Court has expanded the reach of the 14th Amendment in some situations to individuals discriminating on their own. Therefore, in order to reach the actions of individuals, Congress, using its power to regulate interstate commerce, enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under discrimination based on "race, color, religion, or national origin" in public establishments that had a connection to interstate commerce or was supported by the state is prohibited.

Public establishments include places of public accommodation (e.g., hotels, motels, trailer parks, restaurants, gas stations, bars, taverns, and other places of entertainment). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent legislation also declared a strong legislative policy against discrimination in public schools and colleges which aided in desegregation. Title VI of the civil rights act prohibits discrimination in federally funded programs. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination where the employer is engaged in interstate commerce. Congress has passed numerous other laws dealing with employment discrimination.
Should I hire a lawyer?
If you are a victim of discrimination due to your race, sex, age, religion, ethnicity, physical/mental disability or sexual orientation, you need a lawyer right away. You also need a lawyer if you are discriminated against for associating with or being part of a certain group of people. A civil rights law attorney can help you assert your civil rights by taking action against those who violate them. A civil rights law attorney can also defend those who are wrongly accused of violating civil rights. Use the State Lawyers Directory to find a civil rights law attorney that is right for you and your legal situation.

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