Pennsylvania Civil Rights Lawyer
At Schemery Zicolello we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania in a range of civil rights matters. In fact, we are one of the few law firms in Pennsylvania with extensive experience representing clients by virtue of having a number of lawyers whose practice areas emphasize in civil rights lawsuits.
While there are many, many types of Civil rights lawsuits, the vast majority of cases pursued by the law firm of Schemery Zicolello can be broken down into four (4) categories:
- Police Interaction
- Prisoner cases
- First Amendment
- Employment discrimination – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
One category of civil rights cases are those that arise from Police Interactions. These types of cases often fall into one or more of three categories including searches and seizures, excessive force, and malicious prosecution (criminal charges without evidence of a crime).
Searches and Seizures
While the police are permitted to search persons and properties and/or seize property, they can only do so in certain limited situations. At Schemery Zicolello we have represented many clients throughout Pennsylvania where searches or seizures violated our clients’ rights. These types of cases included searches without a legal basis as well as seizures of persons or property in violation of the United States Constitution. If you have been subjected to a search of your home, car or other property without a warrant or based on a warrant which contains known falsehoods by the police, the search is likely unlawful and in violation of the United State Constitution. If your property has been seized, unless the property is serving as evidence of a crime for criminal prosecution, the police are not entitled to hold the property indefinitely. It must be returned or it will be in violation of your Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of your property without just compensation. In any situation where you feel your rights may have been violated by virtue of a search or seizure by the police, you should contact the attorneys at Schemery Zicolello to obtain a free review of your claim.
When arresting a person, police may use force but they are precluded from using force which is excessive. What is “excessive” is a highly factual inquiry which depends on the particular facts of your case. Oftentimes when a case involves questions of excessive force, the police over-charge any crime that may have occurred. These additional charges most often include resisting arrest and assault. This is used as leverage to induce a guilty plea, which can make it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to pursue a civil rights claim for use of excessive force by the police.
Sometimes excessive force claims include claims against the police department or municipality for failure to property train, flawed procedures or policies and/or negligent hiring of police officers with a record of excessive force.
At Schemery Zicolello, we represented injured clients throughout Pennsylvania against police and municipalities for the unconstitutional use of excessive force. If you have been injured as a result of an interaction with the police where you believe excessive force was used, you should contact the attorneys at Schemery Zicolello to obtain a free review of your situation.
When charging people with a crime police must have actual evidence of a crime AND evidence that the person charged committed that crime. However, sometimes police officers will charge you with a crime without that evidence. This is malicious prosecution. When that happens your constitutional rights may have been violated. However, all malicious prosecution claims depend entirely on the outcome of the criminal charges. It is impossible to succeed on a malicious prosecution claim if you have plead guilty or been found guilty on any of the charges against you. Generally speaking, the charges must have been completely withdrawn or dismissed in your favor.
Malicious prosecution claims often include claims for false arrest and false imprisonment, if you’ve spent any time in custody or prison.
If you believe you were charged with a crime without evidence that you committed that crime and the charges were dismissed in your favor, you should contact the attorneys at Schemery Zicolello for a free consultation on your possible malicious prosecution claim.
The First Amendment to the United State Constitution protects every individual’s right to free speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion. The freedoms secured by the First Amendment are specifically limited to protections from Government interference. Government action is all around us. If a person is acting on behalf of the State, County or Local government or any government agency, they are for purposes of the First Amendment the Government and their actions are the actions of the Government.
Freedom of Speech
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech relating to any matter of political, social, or other concerns to the community. It protects unpopular speech from Government interference. Why do we say “unpopular speech”? Because popular speech does not need protecting. How can the Government interfere with your speech rights? In many ways, large and small. It could threaten your livelihood or limit your ability to speak at a town meeting. At Schemery Zicolello we represent clients in free speech claims throughout Pennsylvania. From property owners who were subjected to selective zoning in retaliation for their free speech to Government employees who suffered adverse job decisions in their employment as a result of their speech.
If you believe the Government, through any Government employee, has taken action against you for your retaliation for your free speech, you may have a free speech retaliation claim and should contact the attorneys at Schemery Zicolello for your free consultation.
Freedom of Association
In an area of particular abuse, perhaps emboldened by a misunderstanding of the 2018 United States Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which held that Government employees could not be required to pay union fees, local Government has waged a widespread war against local unions and their union leadership. We have seen irrational antagonism against unions lead to baseless employment discipline and work-related investigations of union officers solely because supervisory employees wanted to weaken the union. Similar inclinations have also led to refusal to hire employees who were known to be previous union leaders. It is a violation of an individual’s First Amendment right of Freedom of Association to retaliate against them for their association with a union. If you are employed by the Government and you believe your employer has made your job difficult or taken any action against you as a result of your union association, you may have a First Amendment Freedom of Association claim against your Government employer and should contact Schemery Zicolello for your free consultation.
Also, like Freedom of Speech claims, in any instance where the Government, through any Government employee, has taken action against you for your retaliation for your Association with a particular group or even a in some instances a single person, you may have a free association retaliation claim and should contact the attorneys at Schemery Zicolello for your free consultation.
Everyone is protected by the United States Constitution even if you are a in prison awaiting trial or after a conviction. When you are incarcerated, your rights are somewhat different from the general public. Your rights flow from the fact that you are in the custody of Government and they have a duty to protect your welfare.
Prisoner civil rights claims are generally broken down into three categories:
- Prison suicides;
- Sexual abuse/harassment by staff;
- Denial of medical care
Every prison suicide should be reviewed by an experienced civil rights attorney. This is because the shock of confinement/incarceration can exacerbate even minor pre-existing mental health issues. ALL prisons are required to screen inmates for suicidal tendencies and to then take appropriate preventive measures. In our view, there are NO instances where a prison suicide occurs and the prison is not at fault. The pursuit of such cases requires an attorney with knowledge of the interworking of prisons and acts as to appropriate medical, psychological and prison policies and procedure experts. At Schemery Zicolello we have represented many families of victims of prison suicides and are prepared to review and handle your case.
Sexual Abuse and Harassment by Staff
Sexual harassment or abuse by correction employees is a violation of the Eight Amendment which forbids cruel and unusual punishment. A convicted prisoner has a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. An inmate from a legal standpoint, is unable to consent to sexual conduct with a correction employee. This is because the inmate is a prisoner and the corrections employee is their jailer. An area of widespread and shocking abuse are male correction employees at female prisons sexually exploiting the inmates. At Schemery Zicolello we have successfully represented women in many cases against County and State prisons arising from sexual exploitation. If you or a loved one feels they have been a victim of sexual exploitation while an inmate at a State or County prison, please contact Schemery Zicolello for your free consultation.
Denial of Medical Care
While in prison, all inmates are entitled to basic medical care. Not the best care, but necessary or essential care. If an inmate is physically harmed as a result of the denial of necessary medical care they may have a claim under the Eight Amendment of the United States Constitution which forbids cruel and unusual punishment. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of the denial of basic medical care while an inmate in a State or County prison, please contact Schemery Zicolello for your free consultation.
** If an inmate is subjected to treatment they feel violates their Constitutional rights, they must fully follow all steps of the prison grievance system even if it is futile, or they could forever lose their right to pursue a civil rights claim in court. Please note that this rule only applies while the inmate is incarcerated. Once the inmate has been release from prison, the requirement to raise issues through the prison grievances is no longer in effect.
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Obtained a Master’s decision while representing Husband which denied Wife spousal support due to infidelity and indignities.View Case Summary
Obtained an overturned finding of child abuse and expungement of said child abuse from the Department of Human Services in an appeal while representing a Mother who administered corporal punishment. Mother’s employment and career was directly impacted by finding of child abuse until expungement was obtained.View Case Summary
Represented Wife in divorce and wherein Husband claimed over $24,000 in marital home damages by Wife. Following a Trial wherein we convinced the Court of the baselessness of Husband’s claims, Husband was awarded only $442.View Case Summary
Filed a Petition in court on behalf of a Father whose ex-wife was attempting to move with their child to another State. After a hearing obtained a trial court decision which prevented Mother from relocating with their child to another State.View Case Summary
Client who was widowed as a result of her husband’s fatal work-related accident. A claim for widow benefits was filed and negotiated a lump sum settlement of $553,000.View Case Summary
Slip and Fall at Work
Represented gas industry worker who fell on ice in the winter in the evening at a well site on State Park land in Clinton County, PA. suffering a compound ankle fracture requiring internal fixation with screws in a Workers Compensation Claim which was eventually resolved for a lump sum payment of $300,000. Also represented client […]View Case Summary
Injury at Work
A corrections officer injured his back at work, and the state tried to terminate his benefits on the basis of an insurance company’s doctor’ opinion of full recovery. Through simultaneous litigation before the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Office and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, the officer settled his case for over $200,000 plus medical benefits and […]View Case Summary
Injury at Work
A retired man was hired to drive trucks over the road for an employer. He suffered a low back and hip injury while in Kansas on his first trip. The employer denied it had hired the injured employee and contended that he was an independent contractor, an argument that would have made him ineligible for […]View Case Summary
An employee with severe arthritis believed that her repetitive work duties had caused her to be disabled from work due to severe arthritis in both hands. After several rounds of litigation with the employer disputing the repetitive and physically demanding work that the Claimant had been performing for the employer for the last fifteen years, […]View Case Summary
Injury at Work
An employee from Williamsport, PA working as a heavy equipment operator suffered a work injury which the employer and its insurance company formally described only as a left knee strain. Schemery Zicolello filed a Petition to Review Compensation Benefits to expand the description of injury to include the diagnosis of “anterior cruciate ligament tear along […]View Case Summary
Work-Related Herniated Disc
Our Client, a 58 year old food service delivery driver, slipped while making a delivery and suffered a disc herniation at L4-L5. After hiring Schemery Zicolello, the Client began receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits for his work-related back injury. The employer and its insurance company then hired a vocational expert to perform a Labor Market Survey […]View Case Summary
Our Client was a widow whose husband had died in a work-related accident in March of 2013, and as a result, she was receiving weekly wage loss benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. These wage loss benefits were payable to her as a surviving spouse until she remarried or unless it was determined that she […]View Case Summary
Corrupt Organizations, Conspiracy and Possession With Intent to Deliver
Allentown man who was facing twenty plus years for Corrupt Organizations, Conspiracy and Possession With Intent to Deliver more than 1000 grams of heroin, turns down a 15 year guilty plea offer before trial. After the prosecution presents 6 of 12 witnesses during two days of trial, the Senior Deputy Attorney General agrees to a […]View Case Summary
Aggravated Assault and Recklessly Endangering Another Person
College student found not guilty and avoids a three-year state prison sentence. After a two day trial in Clinton County, the jury accepted the self-defense argument and acquitted a Lock Haven University Sophomore of Aggravated Assault and Recklessly Endangering Another Person.View Case Summary
Commonwealth v. Brad Hornberger – Justification Defense Works
A Lycoming County Jury returned a verdict of not guilty for Mr. Hornberger who was charged with Former Felon in Possession of a Firearm after he is found carrying a shot gun while hunting with his son. With his client facing a mandatory five-year state sentence and a state parole violation, Attorney Kyle Rude presented […]View Case Summary
Commonwealth v. Candice Steinbacher – Motion for Judgement Acquittal Granted
Motion for Judgment of Acquittal for a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) prosecution was granted by Lycoming County President Judge Nancy L. Butts, after Attorney Kyle Rude argues that the Commonwealth could not prove Ms. Steinbacher was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. Ms. Steinbacher was arrested after Williamsport City Police believed she […]View Case Summary
Commonwealth v. Geneda Turner – Not Guilty – Battered Woman Syndrome
Northumberland County Jury returns a not guilty verdict for Aggravated Assault. Facing a mandatory five-year state sentence, Geneda Turner was acquitted after presenting a “battered woman syndrome” defense after shooting shot her paramour outside her residence. Attorney Kyle Rude convinced the jury that Ms. Turner was acting in self-defense after years of abuse at the […]View Case Summary
Mother receives primary custody of children after custody trial in Union County. Mother filed to modify a joint custody order by requesting primary custody of her two children. Father also filed asking for primary custody. After a hearing, the Judge found Father to be unstable and resentful against Mother. The Judge granted Mother primary custody […]View Case Summary
Lawyer negotiates $50,000 lump sum alimony payment to Wife despite claim of adultery during marriage in contentious divorce case. Wife received lump sum payment of alimony in addition to fifty percent of the marital assets after aggressive negotiations of a Marital Settlement Agreement. Husband refused to pay alimony on the grounds that Wife committed adultery. […]View Case Summary
Man granted joint custody of non-biological child in Centre County. Despite having no biological connection to the child, he was granted joint physical and legal custody. The court found that since he raised the child since birth and raised the child as his own, he had the right to request the same custody as a […]View Case Summary
Mother successfully terminates Father’s parental rights after hearing. Mother successful terminated the parental rights of the child’s birth father after a hearing in Luzerne County. The court found that Father’s lack of involvement with the child showed a settled purpose to abandon his parental duties. The child was then successfully adopted by Mother’s husband.View Case Summary
Grandparent successfully adopts grandchild. The Lycoming County court approved a Petition by the Grandmother to adopt two of her grandchildren. The court found that the Grandmother was like another mother to the children and that the adoption was in the children’s best interests.View Case Summary
Petition to Home School
Mother successfully fights Petition to Home School child. After a hearing, the Lycoming County court agreed with Mother that home schooling was inappropriate despite Father’s insistence that Home Schooling would increase his bond with the child and the child’s spiritual faith.View Case Summary
Father saves $150,000 in child support. The court in Clinton County upheld a provision in a Marital Settlement Agreement granting Father a $150,000 credit towards his child support obligation. Mother appealed the decision to the Superior Court claiming the credit was not valid and Father should pay thousands of dollars in support each month. The […]View Case Summary
SSD – Bipolar Disorder, Depression & Anxiety
Obtained a fully favorable decision in a social security disability claim for disabilities including bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety.View Case Summary
SSD – Spherocytosis, Anxiety & Depression
Obtained a fully favorable decision in a social security disability claim for disabilities including spherocytosis, degenerative disc disease, anxiety, and depression.View Case Summary
SSD – Lumbar Herniated Discs
A social security disability claim which was partially favorable after a hearing, was remanded for a new hearing after appeal, and ultimately secured a fully favorable decision for disability caused by lumbar herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, and bilateral sacroiliitis.View Case Summary
SSD – Physical & Mental Disabilities
Successfully obtained social security disability benefits, including back benefits for a period of 5 years, for physical disabilities including back, knee, hip, and foot problems causing chronic pain and mental disabilities including anxiety and depression.View Case Summary
Represented a female employee in a retaliation claim against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Our client was suspended and terminated after she complained of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment at the hands of her supervisors. Some of the reported conduct included unwelcomed emails and statements of a sexual nature, screaming at and belittling […]View Case Summary
Sexual Harassment and Retaliation
Represented a female employee in a state retaliation claim against a nonprofit employer. Our client was terminated after she opposed and reported several incidents of sexual harassment by an individual performing work at the workplace. Successfully obtained settlement on behalf of plaintiff. (confidentiality agreement)View Case Summary
Schemery Zicolello represented a female county solicitor in federal claims for retaliation and sexual harassment against a county and county officials. The solicitor had reported several incidents of misconduct and wrongdoing with respect to a county official. The same county official also continuously engaged in conduct intended to harass and intimidate women in the workplace, […]View Case Summary
Civil Rights Case
At Schemery Zicolello, we believe protecting Civil Rights to be a calling. Civil Rights are important to all of us. These are rights that are intended to protect us from the intentional conduct or deliberate indifference of government officials regardless of our race, religion, or wealth. Not many law firms practice in this area of […]View Case Summary
Officer Brian Dixon charged Anthony Werman with attempted murder of a police officer when Dixon was responding to a domestic disturbance claiming that Werman attacked Dixon with a six inch Alaskan Ulu knife raised above his head while Dixon was attempting to enter the apartment to investigate. Sargent Gregory Neeper signed an affidavit swearing to […]View Case Summary
Unlawful Seizure of Property
A husband and wife who were avid Little League pin collectors designed and produced a little league pin commemorating the Williamsport Police Department. Williamsport Police Captain Raymond Kontz III came to their home, threatened their arrest for producing and possessing the pins without the City’s “approval”, and confiscated the pins without a search warrant. The […]View Case Summary
Sexual Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation
The City of Sunbury Police Department had 3 female employees: a Police Officer; Meter Person; and a Police Records Clerk. After the rank and file officers, a Police Sargent, and the Mayor began to subject the female officer to various forms of sexual harassment and unfair treatment simply because she was the only female Police […]View Case Summary
Represented Motorcycle driver who was struck by a pizza delivery vehicle in an intersection suffering a laceration injury to his ankle which eventually required same day surgery in the nature of a Tarsal Tunnel Release. Case was settled prior to Trial for $95,000.View Case Summary
Represented motorcycle driver who dumped his bike when a truck pulled out in front of him. He suffered road rash and shoulder injuries requiring physical therapy. A lawsuit was filed in Federal Court and settled prior to trial for $90,0000.View Case Summary
Client was an elderly woman who suffered multiple broken bones while a passenger in a vehicle driven by her husband who had crossed into the opposing traffic lane and struck a truck. Claim settled without having to file a lawsuit for $300,000.View Case Summary
Client was injured in an automobile accident when struck by another vehicle while he was stopped at a stop sign. He suffered a herniated lumbar disc requiring surgery. A claim against the driver of the vehicle who struck him was settled for the driver’s policy limit of $50,000 and an Underinsured Motorist claim for Client’s […]View Case Summary
Slip and Fall
Represented gas industry worker who fell on ice in the winter in the evening at a well site on State Park land in Clinton County, PA. suffering a compound ankle fracture requiring internal fixation with screws in a claim Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Precision Drilling Corporation. Both companies denied liability contending they were not responsible […]View Case Summary
Represented two plaintiffs who were injured in a motor vehicle accident on the PA Turnpike after they were struck from behind when traffic in front of them stopped. Between them, they sustained multiple injuries, including neck and back injuries, a rotator cuff tear, broken wrist, and all over contusions. In a Personal Injury claim alleging […]View Case Summary
The client was injured when struck directly on the passenger side of her vehicle due to the uninsured driver traveling too fast as he approached an intersection after a snow storm. We took the necessary steps to determine the lack of any available insurance for the at fault driver and placed the client’s insurance company […]View Case Summary
A young woman who was jogging on a public street was attacked and scratched on her face by a dog owned by a couple who routinely permitted their dog to roam without restraint. The victim had a small scar on her face, but did not require any follow up care after the date of injury, […]View Case Summary
Our client’s vehicle was struck when another driver pulled out from a stop sign and failed to yield the right of way. The accident caused multiple injuries to our client’s knee, hip, hand, and wrist, requiring hospitalization and knee surgery. After filing a lawsuit in county court, we negotiated a settlement of $77,400.View Case Summary
Our client was driving her motorcycle when a car suddenly made a left turn directly into her path. She suffered multiple trauma including a right scaphoid fracture, a left distal radius fracture, and a left superior pubic ramus fracture. While hospitalized, she underwent an open reduction and internal fixation for her left distal radius fracture. […]View Case Summary
Slip and Fall
Client, an off work pipeline welder, slipped on ice concealed in a pool of water on a parking lot while visiting a metal fabrication shop to have his truck repaired. As a result of the fall he broke his ankle and was unable to work for several months. The metal fabrication shop and its insurance […]View Case Summary
While tending to his front lawn a man was attacked by a neighbor’s dog when the dog pulled away from its owner who was walking it on a leash. As a result of the attack the man eventually required surgery due to nerve damage caused by a puncture wound when the dog bit down on […]View Case Summary
Wrongful Death/Medical Malpractice
Following surgery to remove a perforated gangrenous appendix, patient who also suffered from cirrhosis was followed by only one post-operative appointment reporting abdominal pain, no appetite, bloating, abdominal distention, fatigue, night sweats, nasal drainage, wheezing and headache. Despite these symptoms and the fact that examination notes during his hospitalization for the appendectomy indicated that he […]View Case Summary
Surgeon and hospital staff failed to confirm proper placement of implanted power port by drawing blood. After patient was discharged to home, nourishment was administered through the improperly placed power port flooding her chest cavity. She suffered a bilateral pleural effusion requiring emergency treatment, chest tube insertion, intubation, and was hospitalized for two weeks. The […]View Case Summary
several family members were injured
Several family members were injured at a local amusement facility when a ride malfunctioned. A lawsuit was filed after the operators of the facility denied responsibility for the injuries. Ultimately, the case was settled on behalf of each and every client with the total settlement approaching $200,000.View Case Summary