Civil Rights Enforcement Section
The Civil Rights Enforcement Section assumes a leadership and coordination role in legal actions arising from allegations and complaints of civil rights violations. This section works closely with our governmental and law enforcement agencies, including the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, federal civil rights agencies and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Civil Tension in training law enforcement and municipal governments about the requirements of State Civil Rights and Ethnic Intimidation Laws.
The Civil Rights Enforcement Section is authorized to do the following:
- Bring actions in the name of the Attorney General to challenge discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations (including educational institutions) on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, disability, general education., development certificate or familial status. Actions may be brought where the case presents an important legal issue of statewide significance.
- Obtain civil injunctions against continuing acts of ethnic intimidation under the Ethnic Intimidation Civil Redress Statute.
- Undertake or assist in other civil rights litigation pursuant to state or federal law, to the extent permitted by the Attorney General’s standing as parens patriae
Issue reports and publicize findings concerning the perpetration of hate crimes and other civil rights abuses in the Commonwealth.
Criteria for Determining Participation in Civil Rights Cases
The Office of Attorney General regularly receives information concerning various complaints and allegations from individuals that their civil rights have been violated by local or state government, business or other individuals. Frequently, they seek the intervention of the Office of Attorney General to act as their counsel or to otherwise participate in actions against the offending party.
The Attorney General’s Office utilizes an informal set of criteria in order to determine the appropriateness of their intervention in any particular case. The following constitute the factors utilized to evaluate the appropriateness of intervention:
- The number of individuals affected by the alleged discrimination.
- The likelihood that victims or other groups will bring suit to vindicate the affected rights.
- The extent of pervasiveness of the discrimination.
- The degree to which the discriminatory treatment or incident sets forth a novel issue or an issue of importance in the Commonwealth.
- The extent to which there exists participation by known hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
While the existence of any one of these factors is not dispositive, the Attorney General’s Office will review these and other factors in determining whether to enter a particular civil rights action.The extent to which a particular situation, if not addressed, could escalate into a more serious problem.