The 14th Amendment of the United States was written in the aftermath of the Civil War to ensure that recently freed slaves were afforded the rights to which they were entitled. Among the most important rights established under this amendment are the right to due process and the right to equal protection against the law. Violations of these two rights are frequently the topic of constitutional tort litigation.
There are many examples in today’s headlines of civil lawsuits filed based on violations of the 14th Amendment: the most recent and newsworthy was probably the 2015 case filed by James Obergefell that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States. The decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges was based specifically on the 14th Amendment’s promise of both due process and equal protection against the law, and there are many other, less newsworthy cases that are decided on the same basis.
There have been numerous lawsuits filed against universities by students who have charged them with robbing them of due process protections when they’ve been expelled based on unproven sexual assault charges and by professors who have been fired following student complaints about the content of their lectures. Parents are able to pursue equal protection lawsuits against school boards for their failure to provide equal access to education to their special needs children; families have filed claims against cities whose laws have prohibited them from living together under the same roof; people have even filed civil rights lawsuits based upon failures to make public areas wheelchair accessible.
At its heart, constitutional tort litigation is about government agencies violating the fundamental rights afforded under the Constitution. This may include depriving an individual of their rights, freedom or property without giving them the chance to object; violating their right to privacy, the right to travel, the right to vote, or the right to access to the courts. It may also involve protection from discrimination, including against non-citizens. The United States Constitution explicitly lays out the rights afforded to citizens and non-citizens alike, but the interpretation of those rights is often the subject of significant disagreement.
If you believe that your rights have been violated, you need the assistance of an attorney with experience in constitutional tort litigation. Contact us today to set up a time to meet and discuss your case.