In addition to representing and counseling clients who have current legal needs, attorneys often also engage in legal scholarship and try to change laws that seem wrong. Continuing his commitment to representing the rights of people accused of crimes, The Zeiger Firm partner +Brian Zeiger has authored an article that is appearing in the most recent issue of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights.
Entitled “A Change to Relation Back,” Mr. Zeiger’s article examines a circuit court split that can operate to prevent people who have been subject to excessive force or other police brutality from filing claims against the police officers who violated their rights. In his article, 18 TEX. J. C.L. & C.R. 181 , Zeiger argues the law should be amended to significantly increase potential plaintiffs’ access to justice in cases of civil rights violations by police officers.
Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, individuals whose civil rights are violated by officials acting as agents of the state can file a civil claim against those who violated their rights. Sometimes, police departments attempt to protect their officers from these suits by refusing to release the names of the officers involved in a particular case. Currently, there is a federal circuit split on how to handle cases in which the identity of the officer or officers is unknown; while some allow plaintiffs 120 days after the statute of limitations has run to amend a complaint to include the names of the officers involved, some do not.
Under the current rules of civil procedure, some courts allow plaintiffs to use the legal doctrine of “relation back” to amend a complaint after it has been filed to include the names of the officers involved. For the relation back doctrine to apply, a mistake in the pleadings must occur. What defines a mistake is unknown because of the circuit split. If the case qualifies as a mistake, the plaintiff is allowed to include the defendant, whose identity was unknown at the time of filing, after the statute of limitations has run.
Mr. Zeiger makes the argument that an exception to this rule be created, specifically for certain types of § 1983 violations, because defendants are not prejudiced by the amended pleadings. If this amendment were adopted, people who have been subjected to civil rights violations by police would have greatly increased access to justice.
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Brian Zeiger is dedicated to protecting the rights of those accused of crimes, and works hard to obtain the best result possible for each client he represents. In order to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call The Zeiger Firm at (215) 546-0340 today.