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Andrew J. Mathern

Excerpted from: Andrew J. Mathern, Federal Civil Rights Lawsuits and Civil Gideon: a Solution to Disproportionate Police Force? , 15 Journal of Gender, Race and Justice 353 (Spring 2012) (Student Note) (199 Footnotes Omitted).


The U.S. legal system does not sufficiently deter the use of disproportionate force by police. Federal civil rights lawsuits have the potential to deter because they require police officers to justify their actions in a formal setting, but victims of police brutality underutilize this mechanism. To provide an effective enforcement mechanism, federal courts and Congress should provide for the appointment of counsel for indigent claimants to pursue section 1983 actions when police brutality occurs. In support of this proposition, this Part: (A) criticizes existing legal remedies for their failure to deter police brutality; (B) argues that appointed counsel is an implied in the Constitution under the authority of Gideon v. Wainwright and Douglas v. California; and (C) outlines a proposed amendment to 1983 that requires federal district courts to appoint counsel for indigent plaintiffs in certain circumstances.