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Civil Rights

CIVIL RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT

The U.S. Attorney’s Office (in coordination with the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice) vigorously enforces federal civil rights laws throughout Western Washington. These laws prohibit discrimination, protect the constitutional rights of residents, and affirm equal opportunity for all.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office enforces civil rights through both civil litigation and criminal prosecution and, in all cases, represents the interests of the United States. Civil rights matters are coordinated in our district by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Waldrop. Criminal civil rights matters are handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Cohen. Both can be reached through the complaint process described below.

CIVIL ENFORCEMENT

COMPLAINTS

The U.S. Attorney’s Office welcomes information from the public that brings to our attention possible violations of our nation's civil rights laws here in Western Washington. 

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 of unlawful discriminatory conduct, not individual incidents.  Additionally, many civil rights claims must be investigated first by another federal agency before being referred to us for litigation. For more information about the limitations of our authority and/or required first steps, please use the links above regarding the specific type of claim you believe you may have. In the event of uncertainty, please contact us and we will be happy to help assess whether we can assist with your claim.

To file a complaint, please go to the Dept. of Justice How to File a Complaint website and follow the instructions. 

Alternatively, you may file a complaint directly with our office.  You do not need a special form to submit a complaint, but we recommend using the form below. You may also send any supporting documentation with your complaint.

 

To submit a complaint by email, complete and save the form above, then email it to:
USAWAW.Civil-Rights@usdoj.gov

To submit a complaint by mail, print and complete the form above, then mail it to:

Civil Rights Intake Specialist
U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington
700 Stewart Street, Suite 5220
Seattle, WA 98101-1271

To submit a complaint by phone, call (206) 553-7970, and request to leave a voicemail in the Civil Rights Intake Voicemail Box.

Language interpretation and disability accommodations are available upon request.


CIVIL STATUTES WE ENFORCE:

Our civil rights work enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity), disability, religion, familial status, national origin, military service, and citizenship status, including:

For information about the civil rights laws we enforce, please click on the following links:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): 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 lodging (Title III).
     
  • The Fair Housing Act (FHA): Prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing, such as landlords, realtors or others, including lending institutions, who discriminate against individuals and families based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, disability, or national origin.
     
  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): Prohibits 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.
     
  • The Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) and other laws that prohibit discrimination in schools
     
  • Title II of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin in places of public accommodation.
     
  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national origin by programs that receive federal financial assistance.
     
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion by state and local government employers.
     
  • The anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin.
     
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA): 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.
     
  • The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA): The SCRA provides certain benefits and protections to servicemembers and their dependents during the servicemembers’ military service, including actions by lenders and landlords.
     
  • The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA): 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.
     
  • The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA): CRIPA authorizes the Attorney General to 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.
     
  • The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act: 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.

 

EXAMPLES OF OUR WORK:

 

CRIMINAL ENFORCEMENT

Along with the Criminal Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office enforces the federal criminal civil rights laws, including those that prohibit bias-motivated crimes involving violence that interferes with individual liberties and rights as defined in the Constitution or federal law.  We evaluate allegations of civil rights violations to determine whether the evidence and circumstances of the case warrant a federal criminal prosecution.

Criminal civil rights enforcement includes the prosecution of hate crimes, including under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, law enforcement misconduct, including excessive use of force, human trafficking, and violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, among other criminal civil rights statutes.

It is a crime for one or more persons acting under color of law willfully to deprive or conspire to deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. (18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242). "Under color of law" means that the person doing the act is using power given to him or her by a governmental agency (local, State, or Federal). A law enforcement officer acts "under color of law" even if he or she is exceeding his or her rightful power. The types of law enforcement misconduct covered by these laws include excessive force, sexual assault, intentional false arrests, theft, or the intentional fabrication of evidence resulting in a loss of liberty to another.  Enforcement of these provisions does not require that any racial, religious, or other discriminatory motive existed.

Violations of criminal civil rights laws are typically investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  To contact the FBI directly, please contact the Seattle Field Office at 206-622-0460.  You may also submit information through the FBI’s website at tips.fbi.gov

The following information should be provided:

  • All identifying information for the victim(s);
  • As much identifying information as possible regarding the subject(s), including position, rank, and agency employed;
  • Date and time of incident;
  • Location of incident;
  • Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any witness(es);
  • A complete chronology of events; and
  • Any report numbers and charges with respect to the incident.

Alternatively, you may contact our office directly. To send this information by email, please use the following email address:  USAWAW.Civil-Rights@usdoj.gov

Our mailing address is as follows:

Civil Rights Intake Specialist
U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington
700 Stewart Street, Suite 5220
Seattle, WA 98101-1271

To contact us by phone, call (206) 553-7970, and request to leave a voicemail in the Civil Rights Intake Voicemail Box. Language interpretation and disability accommodations are available upon request.

For more information on federal criminal civil rights laws, please explore the following links:

Updated October 7, 2022