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On the Pulse...Profile of the Civil Rights Practice Group

December 1, 2012

The Public Entity and Civil Rights Practice Group of Marshall Dennehey has been representing public entities for over thirty years. We pride ourselves on the number of cases we have tried and the difficult cases for which we have been able to obtain defense verdicts in federal and state courts. A significant number of our many victories have been appealed by our opponents. As a result, and with the help of our excellent Appellate Advocacy Practice Group, many of our cases are cited over and over again by the courts . The leading Pennsylvania state court opinions on venue requirements and police pursuits are Marshall Dennehey cases. The Third Circuit the case of Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121 (3d Cir. 2010), a favorable decision on supervisory liability, has been cited by federal courts 477 times in less than two years. We have many noteworthy opinions on the 4th Amendment standards for search and seizure.

Our willingness and reputation to try the difficult cases to verdict has been of great benefit to our clients. It has often provided leverage in those cases where it has been decided that settlement is necessary.

The majority of our practice group's cases are in federal court, and we use dispositive motions effectively. Anyone looking through our files would be surprised at the number of cases that have been dismissed either on pre-answer motions or on motions for summary judgment.

The practice is broken down, really, into three distinct areas. We handle civil rights, public employment and municipal tort claims cases.

The civil rights work includes police liability claims, where we defend claims of excessive force and false arrest against individual officers, as well as Monell claims against government entities, where we often thwart allegations of unconstitutional customs, policies or practices. Trials have included claims of excessive force involving the use of police dogs (one of which we brought into the courtroom), Tasers and, of course, deadly force. Our civil rights practice is interesting and gratifying. Litigation of these cases is often very emotional on both sides, and we defend officers who, almost always, are facing a claim for punitive damages.

Apart from litigation, our group is very involved in training and policy review for police departments. We have two former police officers in our group, Paul Krepps and Chris Boyle, who are tremendous assets in this respect.

We also represent school districts. We have litigated IDEA claims, bullying cases and claims of state-created danger. With the number of children diagnosed with special needs having increased by 70 percent in the last ten years, school districts face significant challenges pertaining to FAPE compliance, and the number of administrative claims and lawsuits continues to rise. Everyone is too familiar with the incidents of bullying that are reported regularly. We defend schools that are dealing with very difficult situations, which require a careful balancing of the rights of the victim and the alleged aggressor.

The public entity group also handles land use cases. These include condemnation actions and state court and federal cases involving claims of violation of the 5th Amendment takings clause.

Public employment work is a growing area, as is most employment litigation. We represent counties, municipalities, authorities and school districts in claims involving termination of employees, discipline and failure to hire. We also handle various employment liability matters made under Title VII, the ADEA, the FMLA and FLSA. We litigate claims brought under both federal and state whistleblower laws, as well as constitutional claims brought by public employees who have a property and liberty interests in their jobs.

The third and main area that our practice group handles involves municipal tort claims, which include cases against public entities arising out of slip and falls, motor vehicle accidents, flooding and a variety of other claims. We have significant experience in dealing with the questions of state law, the state immunity provisions, exceptions to immunity and statutory cap issues that arise in these cases.

Beyond the eleven members of the practice group, we have attorneys like Rich Goldstein in New Jersey, who has over twenty years experience in this field. Robin Snyder in Scranton, who is highly experienced in school claims, and others, who add to and uphold the firm's premier reputation. While our work is concentrated in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, we are anxious and looking forward to our growing practice in Florida.

*Joe, a shareholder who works in our King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, office, is chair of our Public Entity & Civil Rights practice group. He can be reached at 610.354.8282 or

Defense Digest, Vol. 18, No. 4, December 2012

Affiliated Attorney

Joseph J. Santarone Jr.
Chair, Public Entity & Civil Rights Practice Group
(215) 575-2626

Practice Areas

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