The keys to the federal courthouse is something call “federal question jurisdiction“. “Federal question jurisdiction” entitles a person whose federal constitutional rights were violated by persons acting “under the color of state law”, to sue under federal law, including in federal court itself, for redress. A typical situation involves a peace officer (i.e. deputy sheriff, police officer) violating the federal Constitutional rights of a civilian by using unreasonable force upon them and/or by falsely arresting them, and thereafter procuring their malicious criminal prosecution; today’s norm.)
The federal court venue was traditionally very important to the enforcement of the Fourteenth Amendment, because black persons of African descent couldn’t get a fair trial in Southern state Superior Courts following the Civil War (that ended in late April of 1865.) Although starting-out as a Post-Civil War Southern “social organization”, the “Ku Klux Klan” soon became the local Southern “Sheriff and his deputized posse”, who terrorized and murdered black persons of African descent while acting “under the color of state law”; under the authority of the Sheriff.
Imagine a “black widow” (not the spider type) suing the local Sheriff and his posse members for murdering her husband in a Post-Civil War Southern state Superior Court, where the judge and the jury members were either part of the murdering mob, or relatives and friends of those who were. Unless black persons had a remedy in a United States District Court, as a practical matter they had no remedy at all.
The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” including and especially former slaves who had been “freed” with the ratification of the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) by the states on December 6, 1865.
The 14th Amendment had been rejected by most Southern states, but was ratified by the required three-fourths of the states on July 28, 1868. Known as the “Reconstruction Amendment,” it makes any former slaves who were born in the United States, citizens, and forbids any state to deny any person (especially former slaves) “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Thereafter, in response to a letter to Congress from President Ulysses S. Grant, complaining of the conditions in the Southern states, on April 20, 1871 Congress enacted the the statute that we sue police officers under to this very day; The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871; 42 U.S.C.§ 1983. Also known as the “Third Enforcement Act”, Congress enacted Section 1983 to enforce the 14th Amendment; at that time to provide black persons of African descent with a civil remedy for damages in federal court against “the Sheriff” and his posse, who were ”acting under the color of state law” when they violated their victims’ federal constitutional rights (i.e. murdering black people in the South and otherwise terrorizing them. This is the very same law that we sue police officers under to this very day.
The Third Enforcement Act, also known as The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides:
“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.”
Although the original immediate class of persons that the 14th Amendment was ratified to protect were black persons of African descent, those protections of the 14th Amendment apply to all persons.
Mr. Steering has been suing police officers and deputy sheriffs under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 since 1984. When the state or local police violate your federal constitutional rights (that, by the way, are shrinking by the day), a Section 1983 action is your federal civil remedy, along with any state law remedies permitted in the state where the police abuse occurred.
DEFENDING BOGUS CRIMINAL RESISTANCE OFFENSE CASES.
Mr. Steering is also a Criminal Defense Lawyer; specializing in defending innocents in “resistance offenses”, such as resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer (words that mean everything and mean nothing; Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), Cal. Penal Code § 69 (the “turbo version” of Section 148(a)(1); interfering with duties of public officer via violence or threat thereof a felony), assault and battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §§ 240/241(c) & 242/243(b)), and even assault on a peace officer with a gun (Cal. Penal Code §§ 245(c) & 245(d).)
Almost every good old fashioned police beating is accompanied by some sort of bogus arrest; routinely for some variety of “Contempt of Cop” or “resistance offense.” The police are often successful in their attempt to shift the blame for their use of unreasonable force upon or their false arrest of innocents, by procuring the bogus criminal prosecution of their innocent victims, for a “resistance offense.”
Although the resistance offenses differ (i.e. [Penal Code 148(a)(1); resisting / delaying / obstructing officer], [Penal Code 240/241(c); assault on a peace officer, [Penal Code 242/243(b); battery on peace officer], [Penal Code 69; using / threatening to use violence to deter / prevent public officer from performing duty]), there is one common element among all of them; they all require that the alleged “victim officer” be lawfully engaged in the performance of his/her duties. Therefore, if you’re convicted for any such “resistance offense”, there has now been a judicial determination that the police officer was not acting unlawfully; that he wasn’t falsely arresting or wrongfully detaining you; that he wasn’t using unreasonable force upon you; that he didn’t unlawfully search you, etc. Such a prior judicial determination that the officer was acting lawfully usually now precludes a lawsuit by you that alleges unlawful actions by the officer (i.e. false arrest or unreasonable force.)
It’s important for the government that the police convict you for a “resistance offense”, because under the doctrine of issue preclusion (“collateral estoppel“) or “claim preclusion” (“res judicata“), if an issue of fact or law has been determined against you in a prior judicial proceeding, you can’t re-litigate that fact or law determination in a subsequent judicial proceeding. It’s kind of like the Rodney King civil case in federal court in Los Angeles. LAPD Officers Sgt. Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell were criminally convicted in federal court of violating Rodney King’s right to be free from the use of unreasonable force upon him under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Therefore, when it came time for Rodney King’s civil case against the LAPD Officers for money, the issue of whether LAPD Officers Koon and Powell had violated Rodney King’s right to be free from the use of unreasonable force was already “res judicata”; a thing decided. The only issue left for the civil jury to decide was how much money to give Rodney King.
Therefore, in your situation, if you’re convicted of a resistance crime (a crime that for one to be guilty of, the police had to have been acting lawfully, like not using excessive force, not unlawfully arresting or detaining one, not retaliating against persons for exercising their First Amendment rights), the issue of the lawfulness of the officer’s conduct has already been decided against you, so invariably, save very few exceptions, you cannot successfully sue the police; you’re precluded from doing so because of your conviction. That’s why the cop who violates your constitutional rights will almost always will try to frame you for a resistance offense. This is standard operating procedure for the police, and that’s not a joke.
Moreover, under the cloak of the unnecessary and morally opprobrious immunity afforded police officers under the “Heck Doctrine” (Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994)), if you’re convicted of any crime, you usually cannot sue the cops at all; at least for false arrest. California adopted the Heck rule to bar civil rights claims in Yount v. City of Sacramento, 43 Cal. 4th 885 (2008.) So, under either federal or California law, if you plead guilty or even now no contest to anything, you can’t sue for your false arrest, even though the arresting officer may not have had sufficient probable cause to have arrested you when he did so.
These are policy decisions by the United States Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court, to limit many persons’ right to sue police for real violations of their constitutional rights, for no legitimate reason. These policy decisions are made by those same Justices who profess that they believe that the courts shouldn’t be “super legislatures”, that make any such policy decisions and that such decisions should be left to Congress and state legislatures.
Thus, because of these “policy decisions” by the United States Supreme Court, in the real world, the cops can beat you, falsely arrest you, and falsely and maliciously procure your bogus criminal prosecution; all while you’re the victim of abuse by the police, and all, in the real world, with very little chance of anything happening to themselves. How many people are willing to spend ten’s of thousands of dollars to defend themselves on bogus misdemeanor “resistance offense” charges, when they can avoid spending all of the time and money that it takes to prove your innocence, by pleading to a de minimis misdemeanor, or an infraction, like disturbing the peace? How many innocent souls have pleaded themselves out court on good, righteous and provable civil rights actions against the police, because they either pleaded-out or stay in jail awaiting trial?
This is normal. This is reality. This what probably happened to you if you’re looking for us. This is why the police do what they do. Because they usually can. Because if they literally provoke you into expressing verbal remonstrance that results in the cops beating the stuffing out of you and falsely arresting you; without any substantial chance of any real vocational or civil liability problems, they often do so. Internal Affairs Investigations do not take the word of civilians over than of an officer, and even when there’s some sort of audio or video recording of the incident that proves that the cop’s lying, the employing agency will almost always back their officer and find creative ways to justify it.
Let’s face it. Cal. Penal Code Section 148(a)(1) can mean almost anything, so young upstart Deputy District Attorneys who want to make a name for themselves by protecting the police and stomping their victims into submission (i.e. (a) overcharging innocents to keep them in jail on high bail, that often results guilty pleas to ”resistance offenses” to just get out of jail, that precludes the defendant-innocent from successfully suing the police; (b) abusing the ambiguity of “resistance offenses” such as Cal. Penal Code Sections 148(a)(1) (resisting / delaying / obstructing officer) or Section 69 (using or threatening violence to prevent or deter officer from performing their duties) to pursue groundless criminal proceedings against the innocent victims of police abuse, until they run out of money and capitulate by pleading to a crime that they are innocent of.)
If you get criminally prosecuted for a crime when you’re the real victim, the officers who violated your Constitutional rights get “two bites at the apple”. It’s like a Three Stooges coin toss; “Heads I win, tails you lose.”
HEADS THEY WIN, TAILS YOU LOSE; POLICE PROSECUTION OF POLICE MISCONDUCT VICITMS GIVES THE POLICE TWO BITES AT THE APPLE.
The police are not technically a “party” to your bogus criminal proceeding; “The State” or “The People of the State” is the other party. Because “issue preclusion” or “claim preclusion” generally requires a person sought to be bound by a prior judicial determination to have been a party to the prior proceeding and had the opportunity to fully and fairly litigate that issue, even if you somehow avoid being framed and are acquitted, that the finding of your innocence (“not guilty verdict”) is not binding on the police in a subsequent civil rights action against the same officers who tried to frame you.
However, if you had been convicted, since you were a party to the prior judicial action (the defendants), the issue of your guilt and all of the legal consequence flowing therefrom (i.e. basically can’t sue any more) have already and permanently been determined against you. So, for example, if a police officer unlawfully “seized” you cannot sue for your false arrest; not because your conviction adjudicated those issues of fact that go into the formulation of whether your arrest was lawful (i.e. whether the police had either a warrant or probable/reasonable cause to believe that you committed a crime); only because the Conservative Wing of the Supreme Court took it upon themselves to make-up a rule, a “policy decision”, that prohibits guilty people from being able to obtain damages for their truly false arrest. See, Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
If the prosecution is able to convict you for a “resistance offense” (i.e. resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer, battery on a peace officer, preventing public officer from performing a duty of his/her office), there has been a similar judicial determination that the police necessarily were acting lawfully. Accordingly, as one of the elements of these resistance offenses is that the peace officer was engaged in the lawful performance of his/her duties, and the jury must have found that to be so, generally you are also now precluded from suing for the use of unreasonable force upon you, or even that the police unlawfully searched you or your property; via the Heck bar (i.e. that you were convicted, and, therefore, can’t now successfully sue the police) and via the Doctrine of “Collateral Estoppel”. In other words, since there has now been a judicial determination that the officer was in the right, and that you were not, you lose in any subsequent lawsuit against the police. All police officers know this.
If somehow you don’t get convicted (of crime that you didn’t commit), the agency still backs them all of the way. It doesn’t matter whether the police agency knows that the officer violated the law and your rights. All that they’re concerned with is protecting the officer and the police agency; that’s it; even if (and especially) if their officer severely injured or actually murdered an innocent.
USING CRIMINAL CONTEMPT OF COP CASES TO SET-UP YOUR FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT.
Jerry L. Steering has been practicing criminal law since 1984 (in California since 1986.) He has tried and otherwise litigated hundreds of criminal cases, including murder cases, manslaughter cases, assault and battery cases, drug possession and drug manufacturing cases, DUI cases, vehicular homicide cases, white-collar investor fraud cases, mail fraud cases, sex-offender or drug offender registration cases, domestic violence cases, theft and embezzlement cases, towing industry cases, and the general spectrum of criminal violations. However, the overwhelming majority of Mr. Steering’s criminal law practice involves the defense of bogus criminal prosecutions for “resistance offenses” (i.e. resisting / delaying peace officer, battery on peace officer.) Unlike other areas of criminal law practice, almost every one of Mr. Steering’s resistance offense criminal case clients were factually and actually innocent.
Mr. Steering is an expert in defending your bogus criminal action, in a way to best protect, and to enhance, your ability to ultimately obtain some justice; reasonable compensation and redress, for your police beating, for your false arrest, for your unlawful search and seizure, and for your malicious criminal prosecution.
We have enough diligence and experience to nail the cops down on their stories in these criminal actions, that simply cannot be done in a regular civil action. When they’re on the stand in a criminal case, the cops don’t have their experienced civil lawyers to take them out in the hallway and tell them what to say, like they do in civil cases. Moreover, the Deputy District Attorneys who prosecute these bogus “Contempt of Cop” cases, don’t know enough, and often don’t care enough, about the intricacies of the Constitutional, legal and evidentiary issues, that are being somehow dealt with in the criminal case, that will have a marked effect on your prospects for redress for your being framed; a substantial monetary recovery; the only “redress” presently available to victims of Constitutional Torts.
In other words, we use the bogus criminal case, to shape the evidence and the primary “swing issues” in that case, to not only win your bogus criminal case, but to also dramatically improve the odds of your ultimately prevailing on your civil First Amendment retaliation claims, and Fourth Amendment unreasonable force, false arrest and malicious prosecution claims.
If you want to know what do to if you’ve been falsely arrested, retaliated against for exercise of your constitutional rights, beaten-up by the police or maliciously prosecuted, please contact us at (949) 474-1849 or email@example.com. Thank you for visiting with us, and best of luck. Even if you have a legal question that’s important to you, and you just need lawyer input, we’ll be glad to answer your questions.
Thank you again for visiting with us.
Jerry L. Steering, Esq.
Jerry L. Steering with Diane Sawyer, Co-counsel* Bob Dole,
and former partner** Melvin M. Belli
Law Office of Jerry L. Steering, 4063 Birch Street, Suite 100, Newport Beach, CA 92660; (949) 474-1849; (949) 474-1883; firstname.lastname@example.org
***The State Bar of California does not recognize a specialty in police misconduct
which is most of Mr. Steering’s law practice.
*In the District of Columbia only.
**In Beverly Hills Office only.