A civil rights claim can be brought in either state or federal court. There may be a strategic advantage to bring the action in one court versus the other. A civil rights claim is brought against a public entity or employee. A public entity is a government entity. The civil rights act expanded the ability to bring civil rights actions against private entities and individuals for racial discrimination. If your neighbor of their own free will decides to spy on you it is not a civil rights violation even though your privacy has been violated. You may have other causes of action, but in that case it is not considered a civil rights violation. If a government agent spies on you in a manner that violates the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment then you may have a civil rights cause of action.
It is important to recognize that the Eleventh Amendment generally makes states immune to lawsuits for monetary damages. There are narrow exceptions including a state consenting to being sued. You can, however, bring actions against state employees individually as state officials. Furthermore, cities and other municipalities do not have the same absolute immunity that the states have.
Often times civil rights actions involve complicated constitutional issues. If you are claiming that a violation of a constitutional right has occurred then depending on the nature of the cast the court may have to address whether there is an established constitutional right. This may result in an appeal before your case even goes to trial. (Please change to web link to appellate process) Many law firms require you to work with a different attorney on your appellate case, at Burguan Strickman Law, our attorneys work with you at all levels of your case.