Teaneck, N.J. (PRWEB) June 02, 2012
He said the media should give similar scrutiny to whether U.S. detention facilities, including those in northern New Jersey, are respecting the constitutional rights of inmates.
“When I became a Boy Scout, when I became a lawyer and when I worked for the Department of Defense, I took an oath to protect and uphold the U.S. Constitution, and I treat that oath very seriously,” said Garfield, a partner in the New Jersey law firm of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., which represents clients in personal injury, wrongful death and other legal actions.
“That’s why I believe our focus should be on ensuring that the rights of all citizens under the U.S. Constitution are protected, regardless of the person’s status,” he said.
The Teaneck attorney pointed to recent events, including a case he was involved in, as underscoring the need to pay closer attention to the constitutional rights of the incarcerated as well as the role that litigation can play in making sure the rights of all are protected.
Garfield represented the estate of Jesse M. Rivera in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark against the Passaic County Jail, Passaic County Sheriff’s Department and certain health officials. The case resulted in a $600,000 settlement last November. (No. 2:10-cv-05136-DMC-JAD).
According to the complaint filed by the parents of the 18-year-old Clifton man, their son hung himself with a bed sheet in the Passaic County Jail in October 2008 just a few days after a jail mental health official had examined him and allowed him to be placed in the general prison population.
The parents claimed that the jail’s actions violated a Passaic County Superior Court judge’s order to place Rivera on suicide watch. As a result, the jail deprived him of his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and his rights to due process and equal protection, the parents claimed.
In the lawsuit, Garfield brought claims for relief for the parents under a federal law, 42 USC § 1983, which provides a civil remedy for abuses of constitutional rights.
The attorney pointed out that local government entities have no immunity from such claims.
Additionally, the statute provides an award of attorney fees and costs to the prevailing party which is separate from the award of economic and non-economic damages.
“The way the statute is set up, it allows people to get the legal representation they need, and it gives them a chance to move forward and have their case judged by a jury of their peers,” Garfield said.
“It levels the playing field,” he added. “Without these types of cases, those in authority and power would be able to act with impunity and no consequences.”
Garfield noted that “Section 1983” claims also were brought in the same federal court against the Passaic County Jail in a separate, class-action lawsuit that he was not involved in. (No. 08-cv-4439).
That lawsuit resulted in a settlement last month in which the defendants agreed to correct conditions that led to overcrowding, environmental dangers, fire hazards and inadequate medical care at the jail, which he said would presumably include paying closer attention to the mental health needs of inmates.
“Whether the case involves a prisoner suicide, police beating, unreasonable search and seizure or other violation of constitutional rights, a Section 1983 claim plays an important role,” Garfield said. “It can compensate victims, force needed changes and, above all, raise awareness of the fact that all U.S. citizens are entitled to protections under our Constitution.”
About Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C.
Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., is a New Jersey law firm that provides compassionate and skilled legal help to those injured by the negligence and wrongdoing of others.
Since 1981, the firm has secured more than $350 million in verdicts and settlements for clients throughout North Jersey and New York, including the communities of Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison, Toms River, Trenton, Clifton, Camden, Brick Township, Woodbridge Township, Bergen Co., Middlesex Co., Somerset Co., Warren Co., Sussex Co., Monmouth Co., Mercer Co., Ocean Co., Hudson Co., Passaic Co., Essex Co., Union Co., Morris Co., Teaneck, Fort Lee, Paramus, Hackensack, Hoboken, Secaucus, Englewood, Mahwah, Bergenfield, Union City, North Bergen, Ridgewood, Bayonne, Ridgefield, Belleville, Alpine, New Milford and Atlantic City.
The firm has offices throughout New Jersey and New York, with its main office located at 375 Cedar Lane, Teaneck, NJ, 07666 (local phone number (201) 907-5000.
The firm’s practice areas include personal injury, auto accidents, drunk driving accidents, motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, premises liability, product liability, slip and fall, truck accidents and workers’ compensation.
For more information about Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., call (800) LAW-2000 or use the firm’s online contact form.