What Are Civil Rights

The term ‘civil rights’ is frequently heard but few understand the complexity of its definition or its history.

By definition, “Civil Rights” are the rights of individuals to receive equal treatment (and to be free from unfair treatment or “discrimination”) in a number of settings — including education, employment, housing, and more — and based on certain legally protected characteristics.

Civil Rights are different than Civil Liberties in that the concept of civil rights revolved around the basic right to be free from unequal treatment based on certain protected characteristics such as race, gender, disability, etc. Civil liberties are more broad-based in definition; they are rights and freedoms that are guaranteed at the federal level by the Constitution and other federal laws.

Most laws that guarantee and regulate civil rights originate at the federal level, either through federal legislation or through federal court decisions. States can also pass their own civil rights laws as well as municipalities such as cities and counties.

Civil rights were meant to ensure people’s physical integrity and safety; to protect them from discrimination, to provide freedom of thought, speech, expression, and religion. Civil and political rights are also meant to protect those who may be discriminated against based on their physical or mental disability, gender, religion, race, sexual orientation, national origin, age, immigration status, etc, from unwarranted action by the government and private organizations. Political rights include natural justice in law such as the rights of the accused, including the right to a fair trial; due process; the right to seek redress or a legal remedy; rights of participation in civil society and politics – including freedom of association, the right to assemble, the right to petition and the right to vote.

Most democracies worldwide have formal written guarantees of civil and political rights. In the United States, the most important expansion of civil rights was the enactment of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery throughout the United States. Following the Thirteenth Amendment, many states enacted ‘black codes’ which were intended to limit the civil rights of the newly free slaves. In 1868 the Fourteenth Amendment was passed to counter the ‘black codes’ and ensure that no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States or deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws. Congress was also given the power in the Fourteenth Amendment to pass any laws needed for its enforcement.

Numerous civil rights statutes, many of which are still in force today, followed these Amendments. One important statute includes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which declared a strong legislative policy against discrimination in public schools and colleges. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also created the prohibition of employment discrimination.

Because civil rights are guaranteed at the federal level, the interpretation is also at the federal level, which can play a crucial role in interpreting the extent of such civil rights. One Supreme Court ruling can change a right throughout the entire country. Supreme Court decisions can also affect the manner in which Congress enacts civil rights legislation.

Civil rights can be simple and yet ever changing and complicated in interpretation at times. It’s history is always in the making.

Steven Medvin is the Executive Director of SMP Advance Funding, LLC, which provides lawsuit funding to individuals who need a lawsuit loan for pending lawsuits. For more information please visit: http://www.smpadvance.com

Why People Choose Mediation

Mediation, often used in respects to the law, is defined as an activity in which a neutral third party, the mediator, guides and regulates structured discussion to facilitate reaching consensus on a disputed issue. Two parties, who have a difference of opinion and are in need of resolution, will often be asked to use a mediator to solve their problem. The neutral third-party’s intention is to then help the other parties resolve a dispute and come to an agreement. When one agrees to a mediator, it does not mean they are obligated to accept any proposed agreements.

Why is mediation used for dispute resolution over other channels? There are many reasons, they include:

•    It is often a less expensive route to follow. A mediator may charge a fee but the mediation process typically takes less time than moving a case through standard legal channels. A case in the hands of a lawyer and the court system could take months or even years to resolve while a case in mediation can typically achieve resolution in a matter of hours.

•    The process of mediation is a confidential process.  Whatever happens in mediation remains strictly confidential, as opposed to a court hearing, which happens in public. During mediation, only the parties in dispute plus the mediator know what  was discussed. Confidentially is so strict in mediation that the legal system cannot force a mediator to testify in court as to the content or progress of mediation. Most mediators go as far as to destroy their notes once mediation is finished. The only exceptions to such confidentiality are in cases that involve child abuse or actual or threatened criminal acts.

•    Mediation can offer multiple and flexible possibilities for resolving a dispute. In contrast, when a case is taken to court, the parties are often given a resolution by the judge or jury. In mediation, the parties have control over the resolution. Solutions are often those, which the parties have agreed upon mutually and discussed thoroughly, therefore they are often more creative and fair. Another benefit to having both parties agree to a resolution is that typically neither party must force compliance upon the other. Because both parties have agreed upon the solution rather than a judge, the chances that the parties will comply are much higher.

•    Coming to a resolution is often higher during mediation as both parties are agreeing to a mutual endeavor. Parties in mediation usually seek it out because they want to resolve a dispute. With both parties ready to move forward along with a willingness to understand each other’s underlying issues to the dispute, gives the added benefit of preserving the relationship the parties had before the dispute.

•    A good mediator helps both parties think outside of the box and reduce high emotions. Mediators are trained in conflict resolution and in working with difficult situations. The mediator will not give legal advice but guide both parties through the process of solving a problem. A mediator may or may not suggest alterative solutions to the dispute but help both parties come up with solutions on their own that suits each best.

Mediation is used in many situations, especially when it comes to parties who want to preserve their relationship. This can include family conflict such as divorce, premarital agreements, alimony, child support, family business, estate disputes and end-of-life issues. Mediation can also be valuable for conflicts in the workplace such as wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, grievances and labor management. Landlord/tenant conflicts are often brought into mediation as well as homeowners association problems or contracts of any kind.

While there are no guarantees a conflict will be resolved, mediation is often the preferred choice of the legal system.

“Steven Medvin is the Executive Director of SMP Advance Funding, LLC, which provides lawsuit funding to individuals who need a lawsuit loan for pending lawsuits. For more information please visit: http://www.smpadvance.com”

Preparing For A Lawsuit

If you are in a position where you need to vindicate your rights or receive compensation for your pain and suffering, knowing how to prepare for a lawsuit is important. Without properly organizing your claim or conveying important information to your lawyer, you could sabotage your own chances of succeeding.

So what are the necessary steps in getting prepared?

1. Get Organized. Pull together all your evidence, witnesses and other pertinent information before moving forward. Having all your documents, phone numbers, contacts and paperwork together is critical. Whether your claim is being filed in small claims court, or the local superior/municipal court, you should ensure that you have gathered as much evidence for your claim as possible. Doing so will also make your attorney happy and their job easier. The most common problem lawyers have in dealing with clients is the client’s failure to keep relevant details of their claim. While you may not have every piece of information, taking what you do have to your attorney will help them have it on hand when ready. By having access to this information, you allow your lawyer ample time to issue subpoenas and obtain necessary supporting documentation.

2. Hire A Lawyer. Choosing the right lawyer is critical. You should set up meetings with a few different attorneys to ‘interview’ them. Many people can determine right away whether an attorney is honest and forthcoming. In personal injury and workers’ compensation matters, most attorneys offer a free initial consultation. You should discuss your case with the attorney the chance of success or failure. Know there are risks to every case and make sure the attorney you choose is honest with you in what those risks are. Ask your attorney whether they will be giving you periodic updates on the status of the case in writing or by phone. Also ask whether they will be your main point of contact or will communications be delegated to a paralegal or secretary. You will also want to know how the attorney will be charging you for his fees. Some are paid hourly while others will be entitled to a percentage of what they recover on your behalf (contingency fee). If you are being charged hourly, make sure you know the rate and if your attorney is working on contingency basis, make sure you know the percentage he is entitled to from your financial settlement or judgment. Try to obtain an estimate of what the case will cost to litigate. Ask your attorney what kind of experience he/she has in regards to your case. Also consider the size of the firm you will be dealing with. There are advantages and disadvantages to both big and small firms. Small firms can be more personalized and possibly have more time for your case but large firms are often more feared and are more reputable. Larger firms also have greater resources and manpower.

3. Ask Your Lawyer The Right Questions – In addition to hiring the right attorney, your part is critical too in the relationship and the case. You don’t want to feel in the dark during your lawsuit, mostly because you haven’t asked the right questions. Remember that your attorney is working for you, if you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask your attorney to explain it to you. If the attorney isn’t willing to explain, you may have to retain a new one. Questions you will want to ask and be in the know about include:

• What stage the litigation is in?
• What are the court dates on calendar?
• Is your appearance needed at court, or only your attorney?
• What your possible recovery or remedies are? and
• What are the possible “negative” outcomes of your action?

While a lawsuit can be long and complicated, depending on your situation, the above three steps will help you get started in the process in a more successful way.

Steven Medvin is the Executive Director of SMP Advance Funding, LLC, which provides lawsuit funding to individuals who need a lawsuit loan for pending lawsuits. For more information please visit: http://www.smpadvance.com”