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Ku Klux Klan Act: Wikis

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The Civil Rights Act of 1871 is a federal statute in force in the United States. Several of its provisions still exist today as codified statutes, but the most important still-existing provision is 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Act was originally enacted a few years after the American Civil War, along with the 1870 Force Act. One of the chief reasons for its passage was to protect southern blacks from the Ku Klux Klan by providing a civil remedy for abuses then being committed in the South. The statute has been subject to only minor changes since then, but has been the subject of voluminous interpretation by courts.

The document reads:[1]

Every person who under cover 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. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

For most of its history, the Act had very little effect. The legal community did not think the statute served as a check on state officials and few cases were brought under the statute.

Circumstances changed in 1961 when the Supreme Court of the United States articulated three purposes that underlay the statute: "1) 'to override certain kinds of state laws'; 2) to provide 'a remedy where state law was inadequate'; and 3) to provide 'a federal remedy where the state remedy, though adequate in theory, was not available in practice.'"[2] Blum & Urbonya, Section 1983 Litigation, p. 2 (Federal Judicial Center, 1998) (quoting Monroe v. Pape). Pape opened the door for renewed interest in Section 1983 among American legal scholars.

Now the statute stands as one of the most powerful authorities with which State and federal courts may protect those whose rights are deprived. Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act provides a way individuals can sue to redress violations of federally protected rights, like the First Amendment rights and the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Section 1983 can be used to enforce rights based on the federal constitution and federal statutes, such as the prohibition of public sector employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex and religion. Section 1983 rarely applies to private employers.

Contents

History

Benjamin Franklin Butler wrote the 1871 Klan Act.
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Legislation

In January 1871, Republican Senator John Scott of Pennsylvania convened a congressional committee to hear testimony from witnesses of Klan atrocities. In February, Congressman Benjamin Franklin Butler of Massachusetts introduced his anti-Klan bill, intended to enforce both the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. President Ulysses S. Grant signed Butler's legislation into law.

Use during Reconstruction

Under the Klan Act during Reconstruction, federal troops were used rather than state militias to enforce the law, and Klansmen were prosecuted in federal court, where juries were often predominantly black. Hundreds of Klan members were fined or imprisoned, and habeas corpus was suspended in nine counties in South Carolina. These efforts were so successful that the Klan was destroyed in South Carolina and decimated throughout the rest of the country, where it had already been in decline for several years. The Klan was not to exist again until its recreation in 1915, but it had already achieved many of its goals in the South, such as denying voting rights to Southern blacks.

Later uses

Although some provisions were ruled unconstitutional in 1882, the Force Act and the Klan Act have been invoked in later civil rights conflicts, including the 1964 murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner; the 1965 murder of Viola Liuzzo; and in Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, 506 U.S. 263 (1993), in which the court ruled that "The first clause of 1985(3) does not provide a federal cause of action against persons obstructing access to abortion clinics."

It was also utilized in the 1969 case of Tinker v. Des Moines. By the time Beth Tinker was in school, the law had expanded to make even school boards liable if they stood in the way of people's federally-protected rights.

Today, the Civil Rights Act can be invoked whenever a state or local government official violates a federally guaranteed right. The most common use today is to redress violations of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Such lawsuits concern false arrest and police brutality, most notably in the Rodney King case.

Notes

  1. ^ Ross, Darrell L. (2003). Civil Liability in Criminal Justice Third Edition. Anderson Publishing Co.. 
  2. ^ Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167 (1961).

External links


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