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Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Civil Rights Attorney

When people ask me what type of attorney I am, I tell them that I am an employment lawyer.  I do so because that’s how others would define the type of law that I practice.

I don’t fight it.

But I also do not necessarily agree with it.  

If I were to speak honestly, I would tell you that I consider myself a civil rights attorney.  

Most of what I do comes from the civil rights statutes.  And I entered this profession primarily to be a lawyer who enforces those statutes.  

If you need a civil rights lawyer, I’m here to help.  

What Does a Civil Rights Lawyer Do?

A civil rights lawyer does more than one can count.  They pursue justice, equality, and freedom.

They endeavor to use the current legal system to change unjust laws.

They use the current legal system to protect individuals rights under existing laws.

Civil rights lawyers are the defenders of the underrepresented.  They defend the poor.  And they take on the hardest cases.  

Thurgood Marshall is the Best Example

Most people learn in school that Thurgood Marshall accomplished two things in his life.  He was the architect of the case that overturned legal segregation.

And he was the first African-American to sit on the United States Supreme Court.

But, I’d argue, that he was the greatest civil rights attorney of all time.  Rather, he was the greatest lawyer of all time.

Photograph of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Information from civil rights attorney

Early in his career, Justice Marshall would take impossible criminal cases. He would defend black people accused of heinous crimes in the Jim Crow south.

His clients were innocent.  Though he faced all white juries during segregation, he did what a civil rights lawyer does.  He defended the condemned.

And he won.  

Later, he proved his superior intellect.  He engineered a series of cases that ended with the Supreme Court coming to one undeniable conclusion; that segregation was unconstitutional. 

It started with his triumph in a case where the University of Maryland law school denied a black applicant admission because of the color of his skin.  

This was the very law school that denied him admission because of the color of his skin.  

He would later win the most significant housing discrimination case in American history.  

At that time, white people used restrictive covenants to bar black people from buying houses in white neighborhoods.  These covenants were contracts that outlined to whom you could sell your house.

Justice Marshall’s accomplishments are too many to count.  But his chief accomplishment was his win in Brown v. Board of Education.  

There, he successfully argued that the constitution forbids segregation amongst the races. 

Civil Rights Attorney Justice Thurgood Marshall wins Brown v. Board of Education.
Photograph by Carlostmayers

Justice Marshall embodied what a civil rights attorney is; he or she is someone who does the impossible. 

The impossibilities include:

  • Engineering inconceivable victories as a criminal defense lawyer.
  • Devising the master plan to win the most significant case in United States history.
  • As an appellate lawyer, winning an unfathomable 29 cases in front of the United States Supreme Court.  He only lost three.
  • As a Supreme Court Justice, serving as an unwavering moral compass that advocated for the civil rights of all people. Without his efforts, children of illegal immigrants would not be allowed to attend public school.

And, one of my favorite of his impossibilities, Justice Marshall would play cards and drink whiskey.  And he would do those things with hardcore segregations.

He cut deals that bettered black people with those that opposed his very being.  

So, what does a civil rights attorney do?  A civil rights attorney does the impossible.  

Justice Marshall was the greatest attorney of all time.  But maybe I’m biased.  He did work with my great-grandfather, Arthur Capital, to pursue a full-on-assault of segregation in New Orleans. 

At The Lacy Employment Law Firm, we strive every day to live by the example Justice Marshall set.  

What Kind of Cases Does a Civil Rights Lawyer Handle?

As exemplified by Justice Marshall, civil rights attorneys handle a wide variety of cases.  

The commonality is that these cases aim to protect, preserve, and/or progress the rights of people in this country.

Prisoners Rights

When people go to prison, society often forgets about them.  We judge them by what happened on their worst day.  And often we disavow their humanity.  

Prisoners are human.  And they deserve to be treated as such.  Prisoners have constitutional rights.  

Those rights cannot be violated while they are incarcerated.

Civil Rights Attorney Andrew Lacy tries his first federal civil rights trial at 26-years-old
 Photograph by: vividcorvid – Fotolia

Attorney Lacy’s Triumph in a Prisoner’s Rights Case.

I tried my first federal civil rights trial at 26-years-old.

Ethical rules of confidentiality prohibit us from giving you details regarding the case.  But you should know that Attorney Lacy was one of the youngest civil rights lawyers to win any civil case in federal court.

And he did so in a prison case where you are often representing an African-American prisoner in a case against white correctional officers.

Further, in these situations, it’s your client’s word vs. the word of a correctional officer with presumable credibility.  

Winning this type of case takes creativity.  It takes fearlessness. And it takes believing that you can do the impossible. 

Wrongful Convictions

Speaking of doing the impossible, overturning a wrongful conviction falls into that category.  A wrongful conviction case is exactly how it sounds.  

You are hoping to overturn a decision by a judge or jury to put someone in jail.  Sometimes wrongful conviction cases intersect with other areas of civil rights law.

Curtis Flowers v. Mississippi

My law school constitutional law professor won a case in which a prosecutor intentionally struck black jurors from Mr. Curtis Flower’s jury at his criminal trial.

Intentionally excluding a certain race of jurors is illegal under civil rights laws.  Mr. Flowers appealed his conviction.  And he subsequently had six trials in which he tried to prove his innocence.

The prosecutor intentionally struck black jurors at each trial.  The Supreme Court concluded that there was discrimination in jury selection.  

And the state was forced to free Mr. Flowers. This case exemplifies an important point.  Overturning a wrongful conviction is difficult.

Although Professor Johnson believed her client to be innocent, actual innocence is difficult to prove.  And sometimes it’s not a basis for appeal.  

Civil rights attorneys maneuver through broken laws to secure justice.

Racial Profiling

Racial profiling occurs when a company or entity uses race to suspect that someone committed a crime.  

Starbucks was sued by Civil Rights Attorneys for discriminationWikimedia Commons

The Starbucks incident above is fresh in most people’s mind. Two black men were arrested while waiting for a white friend at a Starbucks cafe in Center City, Philadelphia.  

A Starbucks employee had previously scolded them — because they were not customers — for using the bathroom.

This incident drew national attention.  And the CEO was forced to apologize.  Starbucks later changed its restroom policy.


Discrimination comes in many forms.  There’s housing discrimination, workplace discrimination, and education discrimination.

Discrimination comes in may forms such as:

  • Race 
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

At The Lacy Employment Law Firm, we focus on workplace discrimination.  But, as civil rights attorneys, we always remain open to any type of civil rights case.

Police Brutality

Police brutality cases need no explanation.  I will not post pictures of the recent victims.  

That’s not my place.  And I will not in any way commercialize their loss.  But, as always, I will #saytheirnames: 

Trayvon Mar­tin, Laquan McDon­ald, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Phi­lan­do Castile, Ezell Ford, Stephon Clark, San­dra Bland, Eric Gar­ner, Dreasjon Reed, Ahmaud Arbery, Ata­tiana Jef­fer­son, Bre­on­na Tay­lor, and so many others.”

These types of cases combine civil rights with the worst type of personal injury case, wrongful death.

Unlawful Arrests

The frequency of unlawful arrests is astounding.  That’s because officers who unlawfully arrest citizens face almost zero consequences.  I’d argue that this is the most frequent wrong that the government perpetuates. 

Yet it’s never discussed. 

Civil Rights Lawyers fight for you.

Unlawful arrests often happen when an officer arrests a citizen for no reason.  If the officer is having a bad day, he or she might arrest someone because they made a “sudden hand gesture.”

And then after making that “hand gesture” the citizen “resisted arrest.”

The citizen is then charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and probably some other charge like loitering to make it all stick.  

The prosecutor, knowing the case is b.s., offers a deal to withdraw the charges in exchange for community service and an agreement not to sue.

This happens all the time.  

If you have had this type of situation happen to you, or a more serious situation, give us a call.  We can provide you with the information that you need before you decide to sign away your rights.

How Much Money Does a Civil Rights Attorney Charge?

How much a civil rights attorney charges depends on the type of case.  A civil rights attorney in an employment discrimination or policy brutality case would like charge a contingency fee.

This means that your civil rights lawyer would take a percentage of the winnings.  The amount the civil rights lawyer would take usually amounts to 30-40%.

Sometimes civil rights lawyers take cases for free.  This is called pro bono.  Large law firms often allow their associates (and sometimes senior lawyers) to take cases pro bono.

If you’re looking for a diligent civil rights lawyer, you might want to look for representation at a large law firm.

Further, you might find a civil rights law through a university.  Many of the law schools, like Cornell, offer a clinic that offers pro bono services.

These services are usually reserved for exceptional cases where there is apparent evidence of a wrongful conviction or police misconduct. 

Lastly, public interest organizations like the ACLU provide civil rights services.  The ACLU is a non-profit organization that represents citizens in civil rights cases free of charge.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Civil Rights Lawyer?

It takes seven years after high school to become a civil rights lawyer.  You must earn your bachelor’s degree.  Then, you have to go to law school for three years.

You can do this faster or slower depending on how long it takes you to complete college.  

From the time I was in high school, I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer. But I always thought it would take too long.

So, I never really considered it until college.  I enjoyed my college experience so I thought that I would consider going to law school.  And I liked law school just as much as college.

I love being a civil rights attorney, but those seven years of learning, making new friends, and eventually meeting my wife, were the best seven years of my life.

When I was considering going to law school, I was one of the first in my family to do so. 

I had no one to talk to.  And no one to ask questions of.  

If you’re the first person to consider attending law school in your family, please give me a call.  We’ll walk through your options.  And I’m happy to share my experience with you.

Or, if you’re looking for a Pittsburgh or Philadelphia civil rights attorney, I have you covered.

Let us review your case

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