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In a Civil Rights Lawsuit, can each act be filed separately in Federal Court, due to time statute running out?

Asheville, NC |

There were several dates and time that my Civil Rights were violated. Time statute for the 1st one is running out in days. Can I file one infraction at a time? There is no denying because the Chairman of Co Commissioners admitted that he was taking away my 1st Amendment right on video.

Attorney Answers 2


Candidly, the answer to this question has to be it depends. If each instance is a separate and distinct wrongful act with injury to your rights, then it is at least possible that they could be litigated separately. If the actions taken together constitute a single injury, however, it seems likely that you would need to join the claims.

Maybe an illustration would help clarify the issue.

Suppose you loaned money to another, evidenced by a written contract with their promise to pay. Subsequently they default in payment. You, proceeding as your own attorney, draft a complaint to file in your local court.

As you are driving to the courthouse, passing through an intersection with a green light, the person in default, while under the influence of alcohol, runs a red light and strikes you, damaging your vehicle and causing you to suffer physical injuries.

These two separate and distinct injuries NEED NOT BE LITIGATED TOGETHER.

On the other hand, suppose you are demonstrating against the EPA's new restrictions on coal-powered electric generation plants. Even though you are engaged in completely lawful conduct, the local law enforcement agency sends officers to the scene. They roust and hassle you, then arrest, rough you up and incarcerate you. You spend the night in jail until your first appearance in the morning in court.

The arrest likely violates your constitutional rights to freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition for redress of grievances (all rights protected against federal and state intrusion by the First and Fourteenth Amendments). The conduct LEADING TO and AFTER the arrest likely violates other rights, typically protected from violation by state TORT (Personal injury) law. In fact, you might have claims for assault, for battery, and for false imprisonment.

In such a case, you could not litigate the assault claim in one case, the battery claim in another, the false imprisonment claim in a third, and the federal civil rights claim in a fourth. The failure to assert all claims arising out of a "common nucleus of operative facts" would result in a bar to the bringing of those claims in a subsequent case.

As a completely separate consideration, you might consider filing the claim that is about to be time-barred, and then, before the opposing side files an answer or a motion for summary judgment, you could amend your complaint to add additional claims.

Your best course still is obtaining quality legal counsel. Avvo provides you with access to attorneys, perhaps in or near your community. Make haste in seeking one out!

This answer is not a substitute for consulting with and retaining the services of an attorney for your legal needs. By providing this answer, I am not entering into an attorney client relationship with you.

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If there is a possibility that the statute of limitations is running on a claim, then the only smart thing to do is to file before the claim is barred. I don't know NC state procedures (I'm not licensed there), but in federal court, additional claims could be added later by amending the complaint, at least assuming that the statute of limitations has not run on them.

As a general matter, however, civil rights claims are difficult to win, and the law (both the substantive law and procedural law) can be highly complex. Consult with a lawyer. Very few pro se civil rights cases succeed.

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