Defense Digest, Vol. 28, No. 3, October 2022

On the Pulse…Our Public Entity and Civil Rights Litigation Practice Group

Marshall Dennehey’s long history of representing public entities started in the early 1980s with one attorney, Robert Hanna, in our Philadelphia office. Since then, our representation has grown exponentially. Today, we regularly defend governmental entities, including public school districts, cities, counties, authorities, state agencies, and their employees, elected officials, and administrators in virtually any claim brought in both state and federal courts throughout Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio and New York. Additionally, our Pittsburgh office routinely defends cases in West Virginia at our clients’ request, as they recognize our expertise in these areas of the law. A brief but certainly not exclusive summary of the types of cases the Public Entity and Civil Rights Litigation Practice Group handle includes:

Tort Claims Cases

Our state tort claims cases run the gamut—from injuries on school bleachers to unsafe road design, and from fallen trees that cause personal injury to municipal motor vehicle accidents. This work is unique to each state, and our attorneys who live and work in those states recognize and appreciate the nuances of the individual statutes governing public entity liability for these claims. We understand the defenses and limitations of damages that may apply and report on these to our clients and carriers.


We defend public employment cases before administrative agencies in addition to both state and federal courts. While most cases involve allegations pertaining to the ADA, ADEA, Title VII and the FMLA, we also defend First Amendment retaliation claims, violation of Procedural Due Process, and state Whistleblower and Federal False Claims Act matters.

Civil Rights

We continue to proudly represent police officers and police departments during these difficult times. Our experience allows us to evaluate the facts, understand the law and, on an individual basis, conduct the necessary investigation to make informed recommendations to our clients on the best course of action. Over the years, we have tried to verdict hundreds of police cases alleging civil rights violations, including excessive force, police pursuits, malicious prosecution and false arrest. A significant number of our victories have been affirmed by the appellate courts and cited throughout the country in briefs and opinions.

School Liability (Both Public School Districts and Private Schools)

Our defense of schools primarily involves cases alleging student-on-student bullying and inappropriate staff contact with students. Those cases can be brought both under Title IX and state statutes, and we see them regularly in state and federal courts. In addition, we handle IDEA and Due Process claims brought by parents to resolve disputes with a district regarding their children’s education, whether for special education needs or suspension/expulsion.

Our practice group has an exceptionally experienced and strong bench of attorneys including, but not limited to, Scott Dunlop and Paul Krepps in our Pittsburgh office, Richard Goldstein and Matthew Behr in New Jersey, A.C. Nash in Florida, Donald Carmelite in Harrisburg, Keith Hansbrough in Cleveland, Jay Habas and Patrick Carey in Erie, and John Gonzales in our Philadelphia office, to mention a few. They each have a team of attorneys and paralegals who work with them and who are experienced in all facets of defending public entities. We pride ourselves on our reputation, built up over 40-plus years, and a history of trying complex and difficult cases. Because of this extensive experience, we are able to negotiate favorable settlements in the appropriate case, thus avoiding costly exposure and publicity.

Another vital service the Public Entity and Civil Rights Litigation Practice Group provides includes presenting seminars and training sessions to both clients and insurers where we address legal issues and updates specific to the many jurisdictions we service. Recent seminars have covered Title IX, state tort liability claims and Constitutional law, including malicious prosecution and excessive force. In addition, we provide counseling and guidance to our clients that includes reviewing and updating policies and procedures in both the employment and police practices context. These services have enabled our clients to reduce their liability exposure while promoting best practices.

We welcome you to look at the bios of the attorneys in our group and please let us know if you have any questions. 


Defense Digest, Vol. 28, No. 3, October 2022 is prepared by Marshall Dennehey to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING pursuant to New York RPC 7.1. © 2022 Marshall Dennehey. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm. For reprints, contact