Civil Rights and Special Victims Section
The Civil Rights and Special Victims Section (CRSVS) enforces a wide spectrum of federal civil rights laws in order to protect the constitutional rights and to affirm equal opportunity for all, regardless of one’s race, ethnicity, sex, color, disability, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. Civil Assistant United States Attorneys who are members of the Civil Rights and Special Victims Section focus on a wide variety of civil anti-discrimination statutes. Criminal Assistant United States Attorneys who are members of the Civil Rights and Special Victims Section prosecute criminal civil rights violations in addition to other crimes. With limited exceptions, all civil rights investigations involve coordination with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division as well as other federal, state, and local partners.
Civil Rights Enforcement (Civil)
Enforcing federal civil rights laws in the District of Maryland is an integral part of the United States Attorney’s Office’s mission. The work performed by the Civil Rights and Special Victims Section promotes equal opportunity in areas including housing, lending, employment (in state and local governments), education, public accommodations, land use, and voting, as well as the rights of individuals with disabilities. The Civil Rights and Special Victims Section enforces more than 20 statutes prohibiting discrimination, including, but not limited to:
- Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.
This Act focuses on rights of individuals with disabilities: in employment (title I), to access state and local governmental services (title II) and public accommodations such as restaurants, gyms, and sports arenas (title III).
- Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.
This Act focuses on landlords, realtors, and others who discriminate against individuals and families based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), familial status, or national origin.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq.
This Act focuses on state and local government employers which discriminate against employees based upon race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
- Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.
This Act focuses on state and local governments which engage in patterns or practices of depriving persons of their constitutional and statutory rights in institutional settings such as jails, prisons, long-term care facilities, and psychiatric hospitals.
- Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (Law Enforcement Misconduct Statute), 34 U.S.C. § 12601 (formerly 42 U.S.C. § 14141)
This Act focuses on law enforcement agencies who engage in a pattern or practice of depriving persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
- Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. §§ 10301 et seq.
This Act focuses on monitoring polling places and investigate and litigate civil actions to protect the right of all citizens to vote, including the right to register to vote and cast meaningful votes, as protected and guaranteed by the Constitution.
- Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), 50 U.S.C. § 3901 et seq.
This Act focuses on certain benefits and protections to servicemembers and their dependents during the servicemembers’ military service.
- Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLIUPA), 42 U.S.C.§ 2000cc.
This Act focuses on discrimination on the basis of religion and protects the right to worship without substantial burdens in zoning decisions, as well as in prisons and jails, including where religious groups, especially religious minority groups, are subjected to discrimination and unreasonably burdensome treatment.
Civil Rights Enforcement (Criminal)
The Civil Rights and Special Victims Section investigates and prosecutes several matters, including hate crimes; government officials, including law enforcement officers, acting under the color of law who willfully deprive individuals of their Constitutional rights; violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (“FACE”) Act, which prohibits threat of force, obstruction and property damage intended to interfere with reproductive health care services or exercise of religious worship. Civil Rights and Special Victims Section enforces the following criminal laws:
- Deprivation of Rights under Color of Law, 18 U.S.C. § 242
- The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, 18 U.S.C. § 249
- Church Arson Prevention Act , 18 U.S.C. § 247
- Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, 18 U.S.C. § 248
- Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights, 18 U.S.C. § 245
- Conspiracy Against Rights, 18 U.S.C. § 241
- Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3631
Civil Rights Outreach
In addition to investigating and prosecuting violations of federal civil rights laws, the Civil Rights and Special Victims Section also conducts outreach with and training for advocates, state and local agencies, and community members throughout the district. The Civil Rights and Special Victims Section’s outreach efforts are aimed at engaging with the public to identify and redress civil rights violations; its training efforts are designed to proactively educate people on their rights and obligations under the law to prevent a civil rights violation from happening in the first place. For example, the Civil Rights and Special Victims Section has hosted a number of roundtable discussions with advocates about issues such as fair housing, disability rights, LGBTQ issues, hate crimes, and education.
Reporting of Civil Rights Violations
The Civil Rights and Special Victims Section welcomes information from the public regarding possible violations of civil rights laws. To inform the United States Attorney’s Office of a civil rights issue or complaint, please complete this form - Civil Rights Complaint Form (https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/page/file/1390881/download) - and email it to: USAMD.Civilrightscomplaint@usdoj.gov.
Please be aware that while the scope of our civil rights practice is broad, our authority to investigate and seek relief for individual complaining parties for alleged civil rights violations is limited. We can only investigate and seek to remedy alleged discriminatory conduct when authorized by a specific statute and in the manner proscribed by that statute. In some instances, this means that we can only investigate and seek to remedy patterns or practices of unlawful discriminatory conduct, not individual incidents.