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Civil Rights Litigation Part III: Pleadings and Discovery

(676 reviews)

Produced on April 25, 2016

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Course Information

Time 61 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

Course Description

In this course, the third of a multi-part series on litigating civil rights cases, Ameer Benno, a New York City-based civil rights attorney, explains the pleading and discovery process in civil rights cases. Learn how to draft the best possible pleading in your civil rights case, and get real life tips and strategies to help gather evidence and navigate the discovery process.


Learning Objectives:

I.     Understand who should be named as a party defendant in a civil rights lawsuit, and what remedies should be pleaded

II.    Compare the pleading requirements in federal court with those in state court as they relate to civil rights actions, and familiarize yourself with different pleading techniques

III.   Identify rules governing amendment of pleadings and the “relation back” doctrine

IV.   Become acquainted with the discovery procedures and tools most useful in civil rights actions

V.    Review the differences between the federal and state court discovery process, and learn how these differences can impact a civil rights lawsuit

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.


Karl O.

Good overview!

Amy S.

Great instructor, he really kept things moving. Interesting and useful presentation.

Richard R.

Once again, thank you!

Saadya B.

Presenter is excellent!

Steven P.

Great speaker

Thomas M.

Once again great presentation

Mary B T.

Good. Useful.

Rodrick W.

As always, very good presentation. Style, information and pacing were great

Charles H.


William L S.

Excellent, comprehensive presentation!

Dennis G.

Great primer course.

Katherine L.


James O.

Highest rating!

Robert S.

Very clear and well organized presentation.

James Y.

good overall summary



robert l.

Clear and concise. Would recommend.

Gerard M.

good practical course speaker holds your interest and is well prepared

Patricia C.

concise, clear not a wasted word Perfect

Steven E.

Excellent presentation.

James D.

Good review of federal pleading rules.

David H.

Well done.

William N.


keith k.

Great presentation

Stuart I. J.

I liked this session

Steven B.

very basic--introductory stuff for new/inexperienced practitioners

Kenneth G.


C Catherine Henderson S.

THE BEST CLE Lecturer, most organized, conveys the most information.

Tim B.

very effective and complete presentation

Richard C.

Program is packed with information, and presented superbly.

William M.

Excellent, concise and lucid explanations.

Sheila B.

Well done, especially when viewed with the other presentations in this series.

Melissa B.

Really interesting. Fast paced. Knowledgeable teacher. Would highly recommend.

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