Civil Rights Litigation

The Firm prosecutes Civil Rights actions in Federal Court against various law enforcement agencies and Officers on behalf of individuals and family members arising out of the use of excessive force. Mr. Claypool prosecutes these cases pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec.1983. The 4th amendment claims usually arise from an unlawful search and seizure that result from a police officer’s unreasonable use of deadly force. Where an individual has been wrongfully killed by a police officer, this claim is advanced by the heirs and successors in interest of the rights of the deceased. The 14th amendment claims are brought pursuant to the Substantive Due Process Clause. One situation where such a claim is prosecuted occurs when an officer fails to timely respond to a request for medical aid by an injured suspect or where an individual has been shot by an officer, is rendered unconscious and the officer fails to immediately summon medical personnel to the scene.

Another type of 14th amendment claim is the interference and loss of the familial relationship that occurs when a suspect is unjustifiably shot by an officer and is either seriously injured or dies. All individuals have a cognizable interest under the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to be free from unwarranted state interference in their familial relationship. The firm will seek to recover damages resulting from the loss of love, affection comfort, society and companionship of the deceased. In addition, where an individual is wrongfully shot and killed by a police officer, Mr. Claypool also seeks to recover survival damages for the deceased which reflects the physical and emotional pain, anguish despair and suffering during the time that the officer used excessive force until the moment of death.
In addition to the above Federal Civil Rights claims, where appropriate, Mr.Claypool also prosecutes a litany of state court claims against law enforcement officials. Typically, the firm prosecutes a corresponding state wrongful death claim pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure sec.377.60. The surviving heirs and successors in interest of a deceased may assert a wrongful death action against law enforcement officials based on the fact that the negligent, reckless and wrongful acts and omissions of law enforcement were the direct and legal cause of the death. Mr. Claypool also prosecutes claims against law enforcement based upon negligence, negligent supervision and training, and battery. In addition, he pursues a state court claim based upon the violation of California Civil Code Section 52.1 (The Bane Act). Essentially, the Bane Act is the state counterpart to the safeguards afforded by the US Constitution against the deprivation of an individual’s right against excessive force by a police officer.

All too often, an unjustified shooting occurs and there are no witnesses. On these occasions, the use of forensic experts becomes vital to effectively prosecuting a police brutality case. Mr. Claypool and his partners have developed relationships with an impressive group of expert witnesses in various practice areas in forensic science to assist, among other things, in analyze bullet trajectory and reconstructing the shooting.

The firm is currently prosecuting with co counsel over 25 civil rights cases statewide in six different counties involving the use of excessive force by law enforcement officials. At least 15 of these cases involve a police officer’s unreasonable use of deadly force that resulted in the death of an individual. The firm has an unfettered commitment to represent the interests of individuals who otherwise would not have access to the legal system. Mr. Claypool works tirelessly to ensure that individuals of minority, lower socioeconomic status and mental disability receive the same protections afforded under the US Constitution as those who come from a more affluent background and are capable of affording legal services.

At the same time, the firm is not anti law enforcement. Mr. Claypool and members of the firm recognize the immense value that law enforcement officials bring to towns and cities nationwide. The firm also realizes the courage that each police officer exhibits when she/he takes to the streets. The firm applauds those police officers who carry out their job duties with integrity and honor. However, being a police officer is a privilege. With this privilege comes immense responsibility. Prior to being charged with the profound duty to “serve the people” and carry a revolver, police officers must first endure extensive training. At the heart of this training regimen is the concept of exercising good judgment and “containing” a potentially volatile situation. Just as in all professions, there are exceptional police officers across the country and there are reckless and irresponsible police officers. All too often, the firm is retained to prosecute the above claims when a police officer has acted in a rogue and reckless manner. Unlike other professions, when a police officer exercises poor judgment and unreasonably uses deadly force, many times a life is lost. The consequence of a police officer unjustifiably shooting and killing an individual is profound and indelible. All the more reason that people in California and nationwide need civil rights lawyers like Mr. Claypool to regulate the conduct of police officers to ensure that the safeguards afforded by the US Constitution are observed and upheld!