Litigating Federal Civil Rights Claims for Both Equitable Relief and Damages

William M. Brooks, J.D.

This is a two-part presentation. The first would address all issues of relating to substantive law The second consists of “how to” from a skills perspective.

Part I
Notwithstanding a fifty year push by the conservative movement to push federal courts to the right, federal courts more often than not remain a more desirable forum than state courts to pursue civil rights claims. This proposal will address all aspects of litigating civil rights claims on behalf of people of suffer from mental illness; claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This statute authorizes equitable relief and damages for violations of constitutional rights and federal statutory rights.

This presentation will first address the substantive law that impacts on claims for equitable relief. This first includes addressing jurisdictional type issues, including, standing, abstention, particularly Younger abstention, and when appropriate class certification. Discussion of jurisdiction will also require discussion on the impact of Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973).

This presentation will next address the issue that dominates claims for damages: qualified immunity. The presentation will also briefly address that relate to the raising of supplemental state claims in a civil rights action. This presentation will next address issues of state action that arise when one attempts to litigate a civil rights action against a private facility or physicians employed at private facility.

The presentation will address substantive law issues that often govern claims of involuntarily hospitalized individuals who seek redress. This includes governing standards for claims of wrongful confinement and forced drugging.

Part II
This presentation examine how to litigate a civil rights case from beginning to end. This first involves examining considerations when deciding whether to file a case and if a decision is made to go forward, whether to file the case in state or federal court. It will next address how to draft a federal complaint and what attorneys must think about when drafting a federal complaint. This includes, but is not limited to issues relating to “plausibility” as detailed in Bell Atlantic v. Twombley. 550 U.S. 544 (2007). It will also address how to ensure claims are adequately plead against each potentially culpable defendant and the difference between personal and official capacity claims.

This presentation will next address issues relating to discovery, particularly depositions and rules governing limitations on interrogatories. It will then considerations that exist when a party employs an expert. This includes the writing of the expert report, preparing the expert for his or her deposition and conducting the deposition of the defendants’ expert.

The presentation will then address issues r elating to the summary judgment phase of the case. This includes drafting affidavits, the local rule statement of undisputed facts and writing the memorandum of law. The presentation will next address considerations relating to settlement, including, but not limited to drafting of particular forms of injunctive relief. Finally, the presentation will address issues related to trial. This includes, but is not limited to putting forth direct testimony and cross-examination.