What can I do if a law violates my rights?

Certainly we always recommend seeking the assistance of counsel if you feel your constitutional rights are being infringed by a law, statute or decision of a government body. The law should not treat you unfairly without some very strong reason for doing so. There is a process that must be followed if you question the constitutionality of a law.

The first step is to figure out whether it is a state law or a federal law that is violating your fundamental rights. Once you answer that question, the trial rules guide what happens next (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.1). Of course if you haven’t already filed a lawsuit, that needs to happen. Then the process would be to give notice to the head legal agency of the state or federal government.

Specifically, if your lawsuit is going to draw into question the constitutionality of a federal or state statute you must let the court’s clerk know by filing a notice of constitutional question stating the question and identifying the paper that raises it. Then the clerk will contact the Attorney General of the state or in Washington DC, depending on the law that is in question.

Then you yourself must get a copy of the notice and paper to the Attorney General of the United States if a federal statute is questioned--or on the state attorney general if a state statute is questioned. Deliver it by certified or registered mail.

After you have done these things, the attorney general could enter into your case within 60 days to determine whether the law indeed violates your rights.

Challenging a law as violating your constitutional rights is a difficult legal proceeding. More often than not the law is found to be non-violative particularly if there is a compelling reason to have the law.

Daniel Zamudio

I am a patent attorney and have experience litigating in federal court.