Mr. Gilliland’s civil rights career started when he challenged the policy of discouraging young black men from congregating on Sunday at Belmont Park in Mission Beach. Mr. Gilliland’s client refused to leave Belmont Park unless officers asked young white men sitting in the park to leave. A scuffle ensued and Mr. Gilliland’s client was maced and shot twice by an off-duty police officer.
Since that time, Mr. Gilliland has prosecuted civil rights actions against local, state and federal law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, ICE, California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles County Sheriff, San Diego County Sheriff and San Diego Police Department.
Private citizens in California can also be held civilly liable for their conduct if it violates the California civil rights laws. The Unruh Act states as follows: “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”
Under the Bane Act, an individual can be civilly liable, whether or not acting under color of law, if they interfere by threat, intimidation, or coercion, or attempts to interfere by threat, intimidation, or coercion, with the exercise or enjoyment by any individual or individuals of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or of the rights secured by the Constitution or laws of this state.
Mr. Gilliland’s civil rights cases have reached the California Supreme Court and he has published opinions at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and successfully petitioned against a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.