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Civil Rights Litigation Part I: Case Intake and Evaluation

(1467 reviews)

Produced on September 25, 2015

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Course Information

Course Description

In this course, the first of a multi-part series on litigating civil rights cases, Ameer Benno, a New York City-based civil rights attorney, explains the case intake and evaluation process, walking the viewer through the initial, but critically important, steps that should be taken by plaintiff’s counsel in all civil rights cases. These include conducting a proper client interview, drafting an appropriate retainer agreement, conducting pre-action investigation, determining the proper forum in which to bring the action, and complying with all prerequisites to filing the lawsuit.  


Learning Objectives:

I.     Recognize how to conduct a client intake interview

II.    Understand the legal and ethical requirements of a civil rights retainer agreement 

III.   Comprehend how to conduct a post-intake investigation, so as to identify the proper parties, claims, potential defenses, and time limitations, and to preserve essential evidence

IV.   Become acquainted with the legal prerequisites to commencing an action 

V.    Gain insight on how to determine whether to bring the action in state or federal court

Credit Information

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Ameer Benno

Ameer Benno, Attorney at Law

Mr. Benno began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney at the esteemed Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, where, under then-District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, he served in both the trial division and the appeals bureau. In the trial division, Mr. Benno investigated and prosecuted violent and white-collar crimes and tried several jury trials to verdict, all as primary chair. In the appeals bureau, Mr. Benno handled all aspects of criminal appeals, and regularly submitted arguments to the New York State Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest tribunal.

After several years as an Assistant District Attorney, Mr. Benno left government service to work for a premier civil litigation law firm where he tried civil cases and managed a caseload that focused on civil rights matters in state and federal court.

In 2009, Mr. Benno opened his own law practice, which focused on civil rights cases in state and federal court, criminal defense, and appellate litigation.

In addition to an active trial practice, Mr. Benno has briefed and argued criminal and civil appeals in the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Departments of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, the New York State Court of Appeals, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

In 2010, Mr. Benno argued People v. Mothersell in the New York State Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest tribunal. That case, which challenged the constitutionality of the City of Syracuse’s usage of “all persons present” search warrants, resulted in a unanimous reversal of the client’s criminal conviction and the dismissal of his indictment, and changed the landscape of criminal law practice in New York State. More recently, Mr. Benno was lead counsel in Bailey v. Pataki, a Section 1983 civil rights action against former New York State Governor George Pataki and several members of his administration for creating and implementing an unconstitutional civil commitment policy for a class of prisoners. Mr. Benno briefed and argued the interlocutory appeal in that case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He won that appeal, and thereafter tried the case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. After a three and a half week trial, the jury found a top member of Gov. Pataki’s administration liable for violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

From 2006 through 2012, Mr. Benno was an adjunct professor at New York Law School, where he taught Legal Reasoning and Writing and Written and Oral Advocacy.

Mr. Benno is admitted to the New York and Connecticut state bars, and is admitted to practice in the federal courts of the Southern, Eastern, Western, and Northern Districts of New York as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.

He serves on the Civil Rights and Liberties Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association, and is a member of the Civil Rights Section of the American Association of Justice. Mr. Benno is also a member of the National Police Accountability Project, the New York City Policing Roundtable, the First Amendment Lawyers Association, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, and the Brooklyn Bar Association. 

Mr. Benno also is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the New York State Defenders Association. He is a member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Legal Committee.

In 2012 and again in 2013, Mr. Benno was selected to the Super Lawyers Rising Stars list as one of the top up‐and‐coming attorneys in the metro-New York area in the areas of First Amendment and civil rights law. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state receive this honor.

In 2013 and 2014, Mr. Benno was also selected by the National Trial Lawyers for inclusion in the Top 100 trial attorneys in New York State in the area of criminal law. This is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state in the nation who meet stringent qualifications. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research. In 2014, Mr. Benno was also selected for inclusion in the National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40.

Mr. Benno is rated 10.0, the highest rating given, by the online lawyer rating service Avvo.com.

Mr. Benno received his B.A. degree with honors from Johns Hopkins University, and his J.D. from Cornell Law School. While at Cornell Law School, Mr. Benno received recognition for his superior litigation abilities and was a member of the prestigious Moot Court Board.


Mona P.

great tips re: retainer and fees

Houman D.

Excellent Speaker!

David M.

Good program

Steve S.

Solid, informative course

Karl O.

Good intro to the topic.

Emily B.

This presenter is great.

Vincent O.

Excellent presentation.

Stephen H. D.

Mr. Benno hits the mark again.

Erin N.

Ameer Benno is an absolutely amazing teacher. His programs have all been clear, informative and interesting. Exceptional.

Donald B.


Edward F.

Exceptional course.

Howard B.

best lecture on the subject ive seen.

Charles D.

Knowledgeable instructor.

James J.

Great presenter. Clear and concise!

Steven G.

very well done. informative, concise, good speaking style.

Patrick K.

great work

Arthur G.

very good presentation.

Michael B.

Very good. I wasn't familiar before. I also like the presenter. I have taken several courses from him.

Nancy W.

Very thorough. Excellent slides and supplemental aids. Especially good insight into intake form and retainer letter. Was delightfully enlightened.

Eileen V.

Great information and handouts.

Derek W.

Well done.

Michael P.


jon s.

Nobody's better than Benno !

Kevin S.

Excellent speaker

Robert P.

Very informative presentation, thank you.

William L S.

Excellent nuts and bolts presentation.

Thaddeus A.

Looking forward to the next editions in the series.

Sharon M.

Excellent course, easy to listen to presenter.

arthur f.

very good coverage of intake interview, and retainer agreements ...

Alastair D.

I look forward the next ones.

G. Christine P.

Great presenter! Knowledgeable and engaging with real life examples that made the material more accessible.

tim r.

Incredibly well prepared speaker.

Brenda J. G.

Excellent presentation. Presenter was very knowledgeable about subject matter, and the materials are thorough.

James G.

Very substantive materials, one of the best sets I have received



Susan F.

Very organized and informative presentation.

Michael W.

Informative and well presented course

Jon I.

Very comprehensive.

Sarah R.

I found this course and presenter excellent. In general, I do not practice civil litigation (though I do government claims, which have elements of civil litigation), but much of the information such as dealing with clients at the onset of representation and retainer agreements can cross over to my practice.

Daniel B.

Covered far more material in 60 minutes than other programs do in 2 hours.

Matthias G.

Good tips - especially with client agreements.

Bruce N.

Excellent! One of the very best CLEs, highly informational and the included documents are awesome!

Lee H.

Excellent and informative presentation!!! Far more complex and demanding than one might think!! Critical information regarding Retainer Agreement and Prerequisites to Lawsuits--one had better comply with the exhaustion of remedies requirements or you're going to get your case thrown out!!!

James B.

The presenter is quite clearly experienced and thorough. Excellent seminar.

Maurine B.

Excellent course.

Caroline P.

Very interesting and will watch the next part of this series.

Ana M. M.

Very informative

Homer R.

Excellent presentation

Richard C.

Ameer's presentations should be taken by all practicing attorneys

Melissa B.

This is a great series. I started with parts 3 and 4 and am now going back to parts 1 and 2.

Edward H.

I think it was a good idea to segment this topic into multiple seminars.

Donna T.

Excellent supplemental materials.

William K.


Vera S.

Excellent course. Excellent speaker.

mary w.

Very clear and concise presentation.

eric c.

Great resource material

Gayle G.

Excellent practical advice in addition to the law and procedure

Andrew E.

Excellent and even indispensable introduction to this area of practice

Bonnie M.


Rosalie C.

I liked Ameer's style.

Gregory G.

Very well done.

Patricia W.

This is an excellent course for every lawyer, and the presenter is very knowledgeable and engaging.

Jeanne N.

Very energized but thoughtful delivery and great materials.

Sally S.

Very thorough presentation

Maria S.

Excellent presentation

William D.

Highly comprehensive and useful how to information

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