A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON INTER-GENERATIONAL ACTIVISM
By: Lennox S. Hinds, Former Director NCBL, Professor Emeritus,, International Human Rights Lawyer
With a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, NCBL initiated a legal education program designed to train a cadre of lawyers to file civil suits in Federal Court on behalf of the victims of police misconduct.
These civil suits would identify the police officers who actually committed the abusive acts, those officers who were present and failed to prevent the abusive acts, all police officers who conspired to cover up the abusive conduct, the police chief and superior officers who failed to properly train and supervise such police officers and the city or municipality which condoned and maintained a policy of abusive conduct by failing to discipline such police officers accused in the past of misconduct.
As a practical matter, the principal Federal statute authorizing a suit for deprivation of constitutional rights is 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The objective of the lawsuits is twofold (a) to make the police thru their police departments and municipalities, accountable for their actions and (b) to compensate the victims of police crimes for violations of their constitutional rights.
The incentive for young lawyers to litigate these cases despite the fact that most victims of police abuse are poor and unable to afford the expenses associated with the prosecution of such civil suits is that under the Civil Rights Attorney’s Fee Act of 1976 (§1988)7, they could be awarded all of their attorney’s fees and costs if they prevail.
Although in most jurisdictions, police offenders are provided free legal counsel and are indemnified for any settlement or judgment against them by the municipality or its insurance carrier, they are personally liable for punitive damages.
The litigation manual provides legal analyses, practical guidelines, strategic and tactical discussions to enable the practitioner to acquire the requisite skills to successfully litigate each phase of a case against defendant police officers, their departments, and or municipalities. The materials are arranged to provide comprehensive discussions of each step of the litigation with an analysis of the relevant case law and statutory provisions.
We hope that the training and development of a new cadre of people’s lawyers equipped with the skills provided in the litigation manual will serve as an empowering mechanism for communities struggling against police crimes, because of the awareness that lawyers from within their communities are equipped with the requisite skills to sue police officer’s, their chief of police and municipalities struggling to curb police crimes.
NCBL LEAP is the only “LEAP “ project providing CLE training for lawyers to sue the police in State and Federal courts throughout the United States.
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