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Civil Rights Enforcement

 

Civil Rights Division
 

The U.S. Attorney's Office is committed to the enforcement of federal civil rights laws in New Jersey and prosecutes numerous cases each year.  To tackle the broad range of civil rights offenses and violations, the Office has a dedicated division that focuses solely on criminal and civil enforcement of federal civil rights laws, and directly reports to the United States Attorney.  The Division enforces federal laws that prohibit discrimination, ensures equal opportunity, and protects the Constitutional rights of those in New Jersey.  The Division also prosecutes hate crimes, law enforcement misconduct, and other civil rights violations. 

Civil Enforcement

The Division enforces civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), disability, familial status, and religion, among other protected categories.  We protect the constitutional rights of residents and affirm 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 and English language learners.

With limited exceptions, the U.S. Attorney's Office represents the United States of America, not any specific individual.

Civil Statutes We Enforce

The Division enforces more than 20 statutes prohibiting discrimination, including:

Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.
We enforce the 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.
We investigate and bring suit against 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.
Under Title VII, we investigate and litigate cases against 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.
Under CRIPA, we investigate and commence civil actions against 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)
The Attorney General is authorized by this statute to investigate and bring civil actions against law enforcement agencies which 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.
Under the Voting Rights Act, we monitor 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.
The SCRA provides certain benefits and protections to servicemembers and their dependents during the servicemembers’ military service.  We investigate and bring lawsuits against lenders, landlords, and others to protect these rights.

Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLIUPA), 42 U.S.C.§ 2000cc.
RLUIPA prohibits 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.  We will investigate and bring civil actions where religious groups, especially religious minority groups, are subjected to discrimination and unreasonably burdensome treatment.  

National Voter Registration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1973gg et seq.
We bring civil actions to enforce the NVRA, also known as the “motor voter law,” “to enhance voting opportunities for every American.” The Act has made it easier for all Americans to register to vote and to maintain their registration.

Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301 et seq.
We bring lawsuits against private, state, and local government employers for violations of USERRA in cooperation with the Department of Labor (DOL).  USERRA entitles servicemembers to return to their civilian employment upon completion of their military service with the seniority, status, and rate of pay that they would have obtained had they remained continuously employed by their civilian employer.  USERRA also prohibits discrimination based on present, past, and future military service.

Other civil statutes we enforce include:

Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 5 U.S.C. § 1691, et seq. (prohibiting creditors from discriminating against credit applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, because an applicant receives income from a public assistance program, or because an applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act).

Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, 18 U.S.C. § 248 (prohibiting the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services).

Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000c-6 (prohibiting discrimination, including segregation, in public schools and institutions of higher learning).

Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA), 20 U.S.C. § 1703 (among other things, requiring state education agencies and school districts to take action to overcome language barriers that impede English Language Learner students from participating equally in state and district educational programs).

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d (prohibiting discrimination in programs receiving federal assistance).

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any federal funded education program or activity).

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a (prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations).

Criminal Enforcement

The Division is responsible for investigating and criminally prosecuting civil rights violations and hate crimes.  The Division prosecutes law enforcement officers and others who operate under the color of law and who willfully deprive individuals of their constitutional rights.  The Division also prosecutes individuals who commit federal hate crimes on account of someone’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.  The Division also prosecutes individuals who commit violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act by injuring or otherwise interfering with those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health care services.

Criminal Statutes We Enforce

Civil Rights Outreach

In addition to investigating and prosecuting violations of federal civil rights laws, the Division also conducts outreach with and training for advocates, state and local agencies, law enforcement, and community members throughout New Jersey. These 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 United States Attorney’s Office has hosted a number of roundtable discussions with advocates about issues such as fair housing, disability rights, LGBTQ+ rights, community policing, and education.

How to Make a Civil Rights Complaint  

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey welcomes information from the public regarding possible violations of our nation’s civil rights laws. Civil rights complaints can be submitted by email, mail, or phone. You do not need a special form to submit a complaint, but you can use this Civil Rights Complaint Form

You can send your complaint by U.S. Postal Service mail or email to: 

USANJ.Civilrightscomplaint@usdoj.gov

                                  or

U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey
Civil Rights Complaints, Civil Rights Division
970 Broad Street, Suite 700
Newark, New Jersey 07102

To submit a complaint by telephone, dial (855) 281-3339, or by fax, dial (973) 297-2010.

  • To learn more about the right to a public education regardless of immigration status, click here.
  • To learn more about DOJ’s work to coordinate and expand enforcement, outreach, and training efforts on behalf of servicemembers, veterans, and their families, click here.
Updated April 5, 2022

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