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Black Lives Matter: Race, Policing, and Protests

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Police Conduct and Criminal Justice Terms and Cases

Westlaw & CQ Researcher Navigation Explanations

Wordbank Key:

Courtroom Bias ■

Criminal Justice •

Prison Reform ♦

Police Misconduct ►

Police History ♠


A Selection of Terms to Help Start Your Research

*Good for both Catalog and DISCOVER Search

Use-of-force incidents ►

Police accountability ►

Prison Industrial Complex ♦

Mass Incarceration ♦

War on Drugs •

Racialized Correctional Governance ♦

Slave trials ■•♠

Slave patrols ♠

Sex/Gender Descrimination ♦■

Immigration lockdown ►

Fourth Amendment •

Search and seizure ►

No-knock warrants ►

Bail process ♦

“Three strikes” laws •

Recidivism ■

Capital Punishment •■

David Baldus Studies ■ 

McCleskey v. Kemp •■

Police Misconduct ►

Rodney King ►

Fairness in Sentencing Act •■

The Scottsboro Boys ♠

Sixth Amendment •

Unconscious Bias ■

Prison Reform Movement ♦

Racial Profiling ► ■

Police/Traffic Stops ►

Racialized Surveillance ►

End Racial Profiling Act •

Black Custodial Citizenship

Capital Sentencing •■

Death by Jury ■

Prison Labor ♦

Private Prisons ♦

Racialized Punishment ■

Social Stratification ►■

DNA Exonerations ♦

Wrongful Convictions ♦■

Police-Community Relations ►

Civilian Review ►

Vigilante Violence ♠

Lynching ♠

Police Militarization ►

Lethal force ►




*all of these cases are available on Westlaw, but Justia was used for Open Access


Police Conduct Cases 

Graham v. Connor (U.S. May 15, 1989)

A Supreme Court case where the Court determined that an objective reasonableness standard should apply to a civilian's claim that law enforcement officials used excessive force

Tennessee v. Garner (U.S. Mar. 27, 1985)

A civil case in which the Supreme Court held that, under the Fourth Amendment, when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, the officer may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless the officer has “probable cause”.

Brosseau v. Haugen (U.S. Dec. 13, 2004)

The Court of Appeals ruled that an officer who shot an individual fleeing in an automobile was not entitled to qualified immunity for violating his Fourth Amendment rights. The Supreme Court reversed, ruling that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity.

Cummings v. Mischeaux (MO Feb. 10, 1998)

Police officer appealed his suspension by the police board for failing to intervene when other officers under his supervision used excessive force during booking. 

Miller v. Department of Public Safety (GA Apr. 19m 1996)

Miller sued the Georgia DPS) alleging that a Georgia State Patrol officer employed in the Uniform Division of the DPS used excessive force amounting to an unprovoked assault and battery upon his person while the officer was arresting him for a motor vehicle violation. 

Pierson v. Ray (U.S. Apr. 11, 1967)

A United States Supreme Court case in which the Court first introduced the justification for qualified immunity for police officers from being sued for civil rights violations


Unwarranted Criminal Prosecution

McDonough v. Smith (U.S. Jun. 20, 2019)

A Supreme Court case that held that the 3-year statute of limitations for a fabrication of evidence civil lawsuit under section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act begins to run when the criminal case ends in the plaintiff's favor.

This case was notable as a victory for criminal defendants; the precedent it set would make it easier to sue prosecutors and police for fabricating evidence against defendants.

Heck v. Humphrey (U.S. Jun 24, 1994)

Heck filed an action in federal district court claiming that the prosecution engaged in an “unlawful, unreasonable, and arbitrary investigation” before his arrest and knowingly destroyed favorable evidence. Heck sought compensatory and punitive damages.

Beaman v. Freesmeyer (Ill. Feb. 7, 2019)

In 1995, Alan Beaman was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lockmiller. Thirteen years later, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned his conviction, finding that the state violated his due process rights under Brady v. Maryland for failure to disclose material information about a viable alternative suspect.

Colon v. City of New York (NY Mar. 24, 1982)

Officers appealed the judgment awarding Colon damages for malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. It does not contest the false imprisonment claim but it contends the malicious prosecution action should have been dismissed


Important Civil Rights Cases

Brown v. Board of Education

In this landmark case, the Court prohibited racial segregation of public schools.

McCleskey v. Kemp

A United States Supreme Court case, in which the death penalty sentencing of Warren McCleskey for armed robbery and murder was upheld. McCleskey was named one of the worst Supreme Court decisions since World War II by a Los Angeles Times survey among legal scholars.

Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States

A landmark decision of the US Supreme Court holding that the Commerce Clause gave the U.S. Congress power to force private businesses to abide by Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations.

The Civil Rights Cases:

U.S. v. Stanley 

U.S. v. Ryan

U.S. v. Nichols

U.S. v. Singleton

Robinson & Wife v. Memphis and Charleston RRC


A  group of five cases in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments did not empower Congress to outlaw racial discrimination by private individuals.

Batson v. Kentucky

This decision holds that a state denies an African American defendant equal protection when it puts him on trial before a jury from which members of his race have been purposefully excluded.

Powell v. Alabama

The Supreme Court overturned the "Scottsboro Boys'" convictions and guaranteed counsel in state and federal courts.





For cases pertaining to Civil Rights, Westlaw has made their Civil Rights Legal Materials easily accessible from their homepage. From there, you can choose cases in one of three categories: Police Misconduct, Unwarranted Criminal Prosecution, or Right to Protest. Select the topic of your choice, and from there you can browse relevant cases from both the Supreme Court and State courts. Westlaw also provides material on statutes pertaining to your selected topic on the same page. Westlaw even provides proposed legislation for some of the topics.. You can access even more federal and state cases by clicking on the appropriate “Search…” links on this page too.


Should you need further help researching and navigating the database for legal research, Westlaw has provided both a quick reference guide and a detailed tutorial.


CQ Researcher

CQ Researcher’s topics range from Law & Justice to Education to Energy, etc. From the homepage, hover over “Browse Topics” and select your main topic of choice. From there, CQ Researcher breaks down the main topic into specific report topics that you can explore. Next, you can choose which you want to read that pertains to your selected topic. CQ Researcher reports provide a table of contents on the left and a table of related reports on the right.


If you need further help using the CQ Researcher database, you can watch the quick tutorial video or access CQ Researcher’s FAQ page. 


FBI Vault - Civil Rights

The Vault is our new FOIA Library, containing 6,700 documents and other media that have been scanned from paper into digital copies so you can read them in the comfort of your home or office. 


Included here are many new FBI files that have been released to the public but never added to this website; dozens of records previously posted on our site but removed as requests diminished; files from our previous FOIA Library, and new, previously unreleased files.


Please note: the content of the files in the Vault encompasses all time periods of Bureau history and do not always reflect the current views, policies, and priorities of the FBI.


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