Civil Rights

Civil rights cases are those where a person or entity is alleged to have interfered with someone else’s exercise of his or her individual legal rights. Chicago civil rights are exceedingly personal in one of two ways.

The first type of personal right, rooted in the U.S. Constitution, are those individual freedoms with which the government can’t interfere, such as freedom of expression, religion, or the right to petition the government. It also includes the defendant’s rights outlined in the Constitution, such as the right to a fair and speedy trial, to not be punished in a cruel or unusual manner, and to confront witnesses. Everyone in the United States has these civil rights.

The second type of civil rights regard illegal discrimination. In these cases, a member of a protected class such as race or sex, is denied a right based on that personal status. The foundation for these civil rights in the United States is in the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This clause states that states can’t “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This amendment, among others, was passed after the Civil War to ensure that the newly freed black citizens wouldn’t be treated unfairly under the law.

Federal Laws

Even with the 14th Amendment, the federal government has passed a variety of other laws that more specifically protect people’s civil rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are the two most well-known examples.

The Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination by private actors based on color, race, religion, national origin, or sex. This act also clarifies in what areas discrimination can’t occur, such as in education, employment, or public accommodations such as restaurants or hotels.

There are other federal laws that protect various groups of people in certain contexts, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

State Laws

States also define the scope of the civil rights they protect and are generally broader than federal law. For example, Illinois has passed a state Human Rights Act. This act extends Chicago civil rights to such areas as fairness in access to financial credit. It also gets more detailed regarding what types of people are protected, including issues like familial status, sexual orientation, military status, or mental disability, just to name a few.

Clarifying Protected Classes and Prohibited Behavior

Anyone can file a civil rights action if the government interferes with their 1st Amendment rights. However, only protected classes can file suits under most of the federal and state civil rights laws. The specific laws and court interpretations will clarify what the protected classes are under that law. People who aren’t in a protected class under a specific law can’t file suits. In addition, a protected class regarding one type of right may not be a protected class under another right. For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex discrimination in the area of education, but not in public accommodation. Therefore, one must assess both issues before trying to bring a civil rights case.