Yes. We have experienced civil-rights lawyers admitted in multiple jurisdictions or who can become admitted in federal courts around the country for the purposes of a case.
Our willingness to take on police-brutality or other misconduct cases outside of Ohio is directly proportional to the damages and injuries that a victim has suffered. Sometimes, clients find it valuable to bring a lawyer in with an outside perspective to challenge entrenched interests. Where we think it makes sense or local rules require it, we will identify seasoned local practitioners to help who are familiar with the local federal court and its judges.
For more information on police-misconduct cases, please call our office today at (216) 578-1700 and speak with one of our intake specialists, or fill out our online contact form.
Generally, and with few exceptions—no.
An Ohio political subdivision like a city or school district facing a personal-injury or negligence claim will avail itself of the broad grant of immunity from liability for damages related to any injury, death, or other loss resulting from its acts or omissions, or those of its employees. R.C. 2744.02 first grants political subdivisions immunity from such tort claims, then carves out several exceptions to that immunity, and then carves out exceptions to several of those exceptions. Even if a claim survives a 12(b)(6), the school can still avail itself of several defenses available under R.C. 2744.03. And even if a claim is successful, R.C. 2744.05 generally caps damages at $250,000 for anything beyond the plaintiff’s “actual losses.”
Immunity: The statute starts with a broad grant of immunity “for injury, death, or loss to person or property allegedly caused by any act or omission of the political subdivision or an employee of the political subdivision in connection with a governmental or proprietary function.” (R.C. 2744.02(A).)
Exceptions: Notwithstanding the general grant of immunity, R.C. 2744.02(B) imposes liability for negligent conduct resulting in injury, death, or loss to person or property in specified situations:
Defenses: Despite those carveouts from immunity, R.C. 2744.03 provides several very broad defenses. Most relevant for our purposes are the defenses that the conduct:
The individual tortfeasor also enjoys personal immunity unless:
Damages: Even when a plaintiff can survive all that, the court will still limit damages. Compensatory damages are unlimited for “actual losses” such as medical expenses, wages, and property damage, but they are offset by any insurance benefits the plaintiff is entitled to receive. Compensatory damages are also capped—except in wrongful-death cases—for other damages, such as attorney’s fees, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and “any other intangible loss.” Punitive damages are prohibited.
You'll want The Chandra Law Firm LLC on your side as you navigate all of the defenses the government has at its disposal for harms it has caused you. You can reach our firm, which serves clients throughout Ohio and the nation, by calling 216-578-1700 or by filling out our online contact form.
At Chandra Law, your case is our cause.®
We take on police-misconduct cases that range from false arrests to charges that aren’t warranted by the evidence at all, which are sometimes brought in retaliation for exercise of rights, such as the First Amendment right to free speech. Cases range from those all the way through the use of excessive force, including deadly force and wrongful death. We typically take cases in which victims of police misconduct have experienced some serious harm.
What Are Some Examples of Police-Brutality Cases?
Unfortunately, as a society, we are starting to learn more about police brutality as more citizens have access to video cameras in their cellphones. Even though police abuses have been taking place for a long time, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the circumstances in which officers use excessive force. Take, for example, the situation with Eric Garner in New York, who was selling loose cigarettes. It was a petty offense and perhaps, at most, a citation should have been given. But the idea of grabbing and manhandling someone to the ground, to the point where he can’t breathe, is excessive.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. Included among unreasonable searches and seizures are instances of the use of excessive force. The Supreme Court has held that police officers, although they have the right to make lawful arrests, do not have the right to use excessive force in apprehending suspects. Courts will give a great deal of deference to police officers in using an amount of force proportionate to the situation, but there are circumstances where courts will deem force excessive. An example of that is where there is no threat to the officer or to the public and yet the officer uses deadly force. That is illegal and it is considered an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.
Is Taser or Stun-Gun Use Considered a Violation of My Civil Rights or Excessive Force?
The use of a Taser or a stun gun can be considered an application of excessive force. You have to keep in mind that one of the reasons police departments started purchasing and using Tasers and stun guns was to avoid using more deadly force, like their guns. What happens is that sometimes the Tasers and stun guns are being used when they don’t need to be used. They can result in serious injury or death to the individuals who are shocked by them. There are many examples around the country of people who died when a stun gun or a Taser was used against them, so it all depends on the circumstances in which the Taser is used.
If the Taser is being used to subdue someone who is acting violently, courts are likely to permit the Taser use, even if the person who had been stunned by the Taser wound up being seriously injured or died. It all depends on the individual facts and circumstances, as to whether or not the Taser use is appropriate.
How Does a Court Determine Whether Excessive or Deadly Force Was Ever Justified?
Civil court cases involving excessive force are incredibly difficult to pursue. First of all, the legal standard is difficult. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that we are not permitted to second guess police officers using 20/20 hindsight. What matters is the objective reasonable belief of the officer at the scene, in that moment. An officer who reasonably perceives that he or she is under threat or that other members of the public are under threat, is permitted to use force up through deadly force. It all depends on the nature of the threat. The standard is “objective reasonableness.” If the officer perceives that he or she is under threat, even if it is because the officer has PTSD from service in Iraq, that subjective belief is considered legally irrelevant. (Although we see increasingly conservative courts apply a subjective standard of whatever the officer claimed was going through his mind—even if it’s not reasonable—rather than the objective standard.)
If there is video of the situation, it really helps. Increasingly, we see dashcam video and bodycam video from the officers, which enables us to establish whether the use of force was objectively reasonable under the circumstances. It helps our firm screen out a lot of cases where family members of people who have succumbed to police violence come to us believing that something illegal took place against their loved one but when we obtain the footage and we review it, we determine that it doesn’t cross the “objectively reasonable” standard.
Sometimes, on the other hand, when we review these videos, we are able to establish that the use of force was excessive. Having undeniable proof really helps.
For more information on police-misconduct cases in Ohio, and elsewhere, please call our office today at (216) 578-1700 and speak with one of our intake specialists, or fill out our online contact form.[Permalink]
After a report of sexual harassment, the employer is responsible for protecting the worker from additional sexual harassment and protecting the worker from retaliation for having complained. They are also responsible for finding ways to accommodate the worker, within reason. For example, if your boss has sexually harassed you, the boss needs to be counseled or disciplined for doing so. Sometimes, we see the employee being transferred to a job they don’t want to do—and that is retaliation. The boss should be disciplined and that might include transfer to somewhere else. Unfortunately, we rarely see employers do what is right in these circumstances.
Who Can Potentially Be Held Liable In A Sexual Harassment Case?
Different law firms have different philosophies on who they want to go after in a sexual-harassment case. Some law firms only want to sue the employer. We take a broader approach; we want to bring to the table, in a lawsuit, every single person who is responsible. It requires a lot more work but it is, in our considerable experience, a better way to ensure that justice is done. Under federal law, you can only sue the employer in a sexual-harassment case. If that employer is a small business, it may mean that you wind up suing them and they go out of business, and you are left with no remedy.
Even if we are bringing a federal lawsuit, we also bring state-law causes of action or we will file in state court. We will sue not only the employer but also the individuals who are involved in either the harassment or the retaliation. Those other individuals are often sued under an aiding-and-abetting legal theory. By bringing them to the table, we are sometimes able to sow division between the employer and the employees. Sometimes, that forces the other side to go get separate counsel because of conflicts of interest.
If you are pursuing everyone, you have the potential for recovery from multiple sources. Whenever we file a case, unless the factual picture changes, we are prepared to take that case to the end, if necessary. In a jury trial, it tells a much better story if everyone who is responsible is forced to be on the other side of the table and has to show their face in court every day.
How Can Someone Help Preserve Evidence For Their Sexual Harassment Case?
Our dream clients are the ones who have gathered all the documentation, have made audio recordings, and have preserved every text message, email, and social-media chat. If you think there may have been witnesses to your harassment, give us a list of names. If they are low-enough-level employees, we might be able to interview them before we file suit. There is no conflict of interest associated with us gathering that evidence.
The best clients are the ones who create a chronology and organize themselves before contacting a lawyer. The volume of calls that our boutique firm receive exceeds 30 a day. The clients who impress us the most are those who have really done their own homework and are able to be advocates for themselves. Evidence comes in two forms: either documentary, which can include videos, or testimonial. If it’s testimonial, tell us who is going to say what and tell us how to reach them.
What Happens If Someone Was A Hesitant Or Unwilling Participant In Their Harassment?
We have handled sexual-harassment cases where the victim of sexual harassment had been in either a flirtation or a relationship with the person who is pursuing them but decided to break it off. The other person just won’t accept “no” as an answer. That’s still sexual harassment because it is now unwanted. If the behavior is sufficiently severe and pervasive as to effectively alter the conditions of employment, then it is sexual harassment. Does it make it harder to prove? Yes, and that’s why the documentation is very important.
We have successfully resolved cases where there was initially consent and later on there wasn’t. We are going to approach them with a little more skepticism because we need to be able to show that it did, in fact, become a sexual-harassment case. We are going to have to be able to refute the other side’s claim that everything was consensual.
For more information on Employer’s Responsibility in A Sexual Harassment Case, please call our office today at (216) 578-1700 and speak with one of our intake specialists, or fill out our online contact form.[Permalink]
In my career, I have represented all sides of these issues. Early in my career, I represented the cities of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills in defending high-profile police excessive-force cases and felt very strongly, in the cases where I represented officers, the officers had done what they had done properly. Many of the police-misconduct cases that are brought are meritless because police have a very difficult job and they are there to protect us. It is difficult and really quite problematic to try to always second-guess them under such unsafe conditions.
But when we entrust officers with badges and guns, there is sometimes the unfortunate effect that some police officers believe they can do no wrong and then other police officers cover for them. That is an unfortunate byproduct of a paramilitary culture in which they cover for one another because of the fear that if they “rat someone out,” people aren’t going to watch their backs on the job. This becomes a very serious problem when one is trying to investigate a police-misconduct case because you don’t have other witnesses. We are now in an era where video footage is becoming increasingly available: citizen video footage, dashcam footage, bodycam footage, and footage from nearby buildings. We are able to obtain accountability for more instances of police brutality than we used to. That’s a good thing.
It was important to me when I left public service as Cleveland's law director that ordinary citizens affected by civil-rights violations—including police misconduct—have access to the same quality of representation to fight for their rights as big corporations.
Many people, if there is an instance of police excessive force by an individual officer or officers, believe that the first thing they need to do is to sue the city that employs that officer. What they don’t understand is that you cannot simply sue the city that employs the police officer without a particular type of evidence that is quite challenging to obtain. You might be able to sue the police officer and succeed, if the use of force was truly excessive and violated clearly established law, but suing the actual municipality is much more problematic. The U.S. Supreme Court has imposed a rule that to hold the city accountable, the use of force must have been the product of a custom, policy, pattern, or practice by the municipality.
If it was a onetime incident of excessive force that violated the police department’s written rules, you may not be able to hold the city liable. You may be limited in your ability to recover from the city. By doing a proper investigation and asking for public records, you may be able to show that the officer’s conduct is part of a broader pattern of misconduct by that officer or other officers, which is the product of unconstitutional policies either formal or informal. That is often extremely difficult to prove. This is an area that requires serious experience to litigate properly. You can’t go to just an ordinary personal-injury lawyer. Police-misconduct litigation requires particular experience because it is quite easy for the defense to derail these cases early on, and then the victims of excessive force never get justice based on legal technicalities.
It’s quite depressing for us, as people who focus our practice in this area, to see some other lawyers fumble these cases because they lack the experience to do them correctly. Just because someone was a victim of police misconduct or brutality doesn’t mean that obtaining justice for them is easy. It’s not.
For more information on police-misconduct cases in Ohio, and elsewhere, please call our office today at (216) 578-1700 and speak with one of our intake specialists, or fill out our online contact form.[Permalink]
A false arrest occurs when police arrest someone without probable cause to arrest them. Probable cause is a very low standard in the law. It means that a person might have committed a crime, not that they definitely did. As long as the officer has some reason to suspect that a crime was committed, and especially if that officer has a warrant that was issued by a judge, it’s going to be very difficult to bring a claim for false arrest. Malicious prosecution is a related doctrine that perhaps has some more potential power. That is a circumstance where you can show that there was not only a lack of probable cause or reasonable grounds to believe the allegations that were made against an individual but there was malice in continuing a criminal or civil legal proceeding.
We handle both malicious prosecution and false-arrest cases. Sometimes, we are able to prove malice by showing that there was an unconstitutional motive behind why it is that the person is wrongly accused. For example, they were exercising their First Amendment rights. This might be where someone is being questioned by police officers and they choose to remain silent. They might be required to give their name but beyond that, they start mouthing off and saying obnoxious things to the officer, and refuse to answer any other questions. It is still constitutionally protected behavior.
As Americans, we have a First Amendment right to criticize our government and that includes police officers. While it may not be wise to run your mouth to a police officer who is carrying a badge and a gun, we have a right to do that. There are instances where you see officers get angry and then wrongfully arrest someone who has criticized them. Those are instances in which we see false arrests and malicious prosecution come up.
How Long Can Police Legally Hold Someone Without Pressing Any Charges?
The rules regarding holding a suspect vary significantly by the jurisdiction. The issue of whether it’s unconstitutional to hold someone for very long is going to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
When Can Police Enter A Building Conduct An Investigation And Make An Arrest Without A Warrant?
There are doctrines known as hot pursuit and exigent circumstances, where an officer who is in hot pursuit of someone to protect the public may be given a pass on conducting a warrantless pursuit and entry. In general, to enter the building and make an arrest, the officer is supposed to be outside of the building and arrange for a warrant to be obtained.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations On Cases Against Law Enforcement?
The statute of limitations for all constitutional litigation, civil-rights litigation, or federal claims for violation of the federal constitution is tied to the analogous statute of limitations for that state. In Ohio, the statute of limitations for personal injury is two years and therefore, the statute of limitations for bringing a federal civil-rights action under Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States Code is two years from whatever the date of the incident is. There are important state-law causes of action that we use in such cases that have only a one-year statute of limitations, however. So we really want people to call us early.
People need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after the incident occurs. If they do so, it enables us to methodically investigate the case and seek, fight for, and obtain public records that will help prove the claim. If we can’t, we are going to lose important state-law causes of action. Everyone who has been the victim of unconstitutional conduct needs to act as quickly as possible. If they are going to contact an attorney they should gather as much documentation as they can of what has occurred. They shouldn’t assume that experienced, accomplished attorneys are available to just drop everything and look at it; it is going to take some time to analyze it and come up with a recommendation.[Permalink]
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution primarily protects our right to free speech. Without the right to free speech and free expression, we are not Americans. None of our other rights would matter if we weren’t able to speak up to protect them. It also protects freedom of religion, the right not to see the government establish an official religion, the freedom of the press, the freedom of the media to communicate and receive information, the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition our government for a redress of grievances.
Those are the precious rights contained in the very First Amendment to the Constitution and we see them violated every single day. We see governments who retaliate against people for exercising those rights. That is the type of litigation that we pursue to help people get a remedy for these violations of their rights.
What Are Some Examples of Cases Where the Government Has Violated People’s Rights?
We represented a police chief who had spoken to a government agency about the mayor of his community insisting that he fire all of the white police officers. That’s illegal race discrimination and the chief didn’t feel that there was anything his officers had done wrong which would merit their being fired. He stood up to the mayor and the mayor began retaliating against him, especially after he reported it to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Here, you have an instance of both a First Amendment retaliation for reporting the misconduct but also retaliation for opposing race discrimination.
We see many examples of people who spoke their minds to police officers and then endured arrest for doing so. We have a case where an individual posted a parody Facebook page of the Parma Police Department and the police retaliated against him with trumped up charges of having interfered with their operations. That’s another example of First Amendment retaliation. The First Amendment applies only to governmental action. So it’s only governmental action that we can address using the First Amendment, including applying it to the states through the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
What Results Do Clients Generally Expect When Pursuing A First Amendment Case?
In First Amendment litigation, we typically are trying to pursue for our clients money damages for emotional harm, and punitive damages for what’s happened to them. There might be some economic damage, although we have found that it is relatively rare. It’s usually the emotional trauma associated enduring retaliation, which is not insignificant, but it’s intangible. Punitive damages seek to punish the individual government actors. You generally can’t obtain punitive damages from a government entity but you can seek it from the individuals who engaged in that violation. The idea is to try to punish them and deter them from doing that in the future. In some cases we are also pursue injunctive relief for our clients—that is, a court order to stop the government from engaging in continuing misconduct.[Permalink]
Typically, we do not want to bring the civil claims regarding police misconduct or brutality until the criminal case is resolved.
The primary reason for that is there is a U.S. Supreme Court case called Heck v. Humphrey that holds that if the resolution of the criminal case will necessarily decide the issue of whether force was excessive, then you can’t even pursue that civil case. If you want to bring a claim for excessive force against a police officer and you are charged with a crime of violence, the crime of violence with which you are charged could preclude the use of force you claim is excessive from being found by a court to be excessive. If you wind up pleading guilty or no contest to that criminal charge, or are convicted of it by a jury, your civil claim is automatically going to be extinguished.
What we will often recommend to our clients, as long as there is time before the statute of limitations runs out, is to work with their criminal attorney to resolve whatever it is that they are being charged with and then worry about a civil claim. In the meantime, we can try to quietly investigate what happened. We do not want to draw too much attention to the fact that there may be a civil claim coming.
There is a legal-ethics opinion from the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Board of Professional Conduct that advises that it’s unethical for a prosecutor to demand a release of civil liability from someone they are prosecuting, if there is no probable cause to support the charges to begin with. If there is no probable cause, then the prosecutor should not be expecting the person that they are prosecuting to sign a release of civil liability before dropping charges or cutting a plea deal. (Unfortunately, we see prosecutors violate this all the time.)
For more information on Impact of Police Misconduct Civil Case on a Criminal Case, please call our office today at (216) 578-1700 and speak with one of our intake specialists, or fill out our online contact form.[Permalink]
Workplace sexual harassment is the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace. The idea behind sexual harassment is not to eliminate all flirtation or all expression of romantic or sexual interest between one human being and another. The key is that it should not be unwelcome. Once you ask or express interest, if there is no reciprocation, stop. If it is hostile, pervasive, or persistent, we are in the realm of sexual harassment.
What Steps Should Someone Take If They Have Been Sexually Harassed in the Workplace?
Sometimes, the very person doing the sexual harassing is the person to whom you are supposed to report the sexual harassment. If your boss is sexually harassing you and you are in a small business without an HR Department, to whom are you supposed to report the sexual harassment? The reason people get so uncomfortable about taking the steps that are required to protect themselves is that the practical reality of life is that people understand that they are putting themselves at risk of retaliation.
If it’s your boss harassing you, ask him or her to stop and make it really clear, kindly and respectfully if you can, that you are not interested. Talk to the boss’s boss. If you’ve got a human-resources department, report it to them. But keep in mind: the human-resources department is rarely if ever your friend. Recognize that you are still risking retaliation. You should have some proof of the harassment. If it’s possible, audio record what takes place. Keep in mind that some workplaces have an anti-recording policy and they will retaliate for you violating that too. You also need to ensure that you are in a state where only one party’s consent is needed for making an audio recording. In Ohio, all that is needed is one party’s consent.
The steps that need to be taken are reporting the sexual harassment and trying to develop some proof of it. If there are harassing text messages and emails that have been sent to you, make sure that you’ve secured the emails off site. If you are fired, you will find yourself without access to the evidence. If there are text messages and they are on a company phone, take screenshots of them and email them to yourself, preferably using a private email address.
If you don’t report the harassment, your employer can’t be held liable. You have to report it and where the employer can be held liable is if the employer fails to act or if the employer retaliates. Retaliation cases are easier to prove than the underlying sexual-harassment cases. If we can show a sudden change in posture towards you by the company after you have reported, it makes a retaliation case easier to prove.
For a retaliation case, the underlying sexual harassment doesn’t have to be proved. The retaliation case can be proved because people are retaliating against you for complaining about something in good faith. The earlier that you contact an attorney to advise you through the harassment you are experiencing, the better. Sometimes, we are approached by people who have been harassed, reported it, and been retaliated against but we don’t have enough information to prove it. It breaks our hearts that that case really isn’t going to go anywhere because the employer is going to come up with some pretextual excuse as to why it did what it did.
In Ohio, the statute of limitations for filing a court case in state court for sexual harassment is six years, which is very generous. But if you want to try to get government intervention, you have to file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 300 days in Ohio of the improper conduct. In some jurisdictions, it’s 180 days. If you blow that time, then you are not going to have the ability to have someone launch a government investigation into what happened and you can’t file a federal lawsuit. You might still be able to file a state lawsuit.[Permalink]
Although we prefer checks, our invoicing system is now set up to accept credit cards. Please call us for more information.[Permalink]
Generally not, even if you believe that civil-rights issues arise from those proceedings.[Permalink]
We do not handle immigration-related cases, unless you seek to reverse a criminal conviction because a court did not provide proper warnings to you regarding immigration consequences like deportation.
We have had success at that.
We would need a court transcript proving that occurred.
No, we handle only white-collar-criminal-defense matters like fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, economic espionage, trade-secret theft, or public-corruption cases.
For civil-rights police-misconduct cases that have parallel criminal cases, we may consider your matter after criminal charges have been cleared. If we think you have a promising civil-rights-misconduct case, we may make referrals to competent criminal-defense counsel, or on rare occasion, handle the criminal-defense matter ourselves.
A guilty plea or conviction may eliminate your ability to bring a civil-rights claim for government or police misconduct.
A guilty plea or conviction related to your interaction with the police may eliminate your ability to bring a civil-rights claim for government or police misconduct related to that incident. We would need to know what the plea is for to determine whether a civil-rights claim is precluded.[Permalink]
As much as we would like to do so, we generally do not—on a contingency-fee basis—handle civil-rights claims that involve an unlawful police stop or search of a car or home without a showing of serious harm or injury resulting from the search, or unless the claim is added on to other, more significant claims.
The reason for this is that we have found conservative federal courts generally hostile and resistant to such civil-rights claims, even when the police misconduct at issue is blatant and violates the Constitution. In addition, federal courts are generally hostile to claims with low money damages or what they perceive as low emotional damages— even though citizens know how hurtful such invasions of privacy can feel.[Permalink]
No, unless the accident resulted in death or catastrophic injury. Depending on the facts and circumstances, we may get involved in such cases.[Permalink]
No, unless there is clear, provable evidence of racial discrimination.[Permalink]
Depending on the matter, we charge hourly, fixed, and contingent fees.
For certain types of civil-litigation matters, we charge a "contingent" fee—that is, we get paid our fees only if you recover financially.
For other civil matters, we charge hourly or structured fixed fees.
For white-collar criminal matters, we charge either hourly or fixed fees, because attorney ethics rules deem contingent fees in such matters to be unethical.
Our hourly rates range depending upon the lawyer's experiences. Please call us for more information: 216.578.1700
Generally not, although for fees to be agreed upon we can advise you regarding whether the conduct about which you are concerned violates ethical, constitutional standards, or other laws; or draft complaints to disciplinary authorities. This will rarely lead to a financial recovery.
Prosecutors and judges are generally entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity from being sued personally for their work.
Our firm thus almost never files civil lawsuits against judges or prosecutors for their legal work.
You may wish to write the disciplinary counsel in your jurisdiction with your complaint about the judge or prosecutor.
If the prosecutor’s conduct also involves misconduct by police officers or other law-enforcement agents, we may be interested in your case, depending on all the facts and circumstances.