• Tenth Circuit Grants Qualified Immunity to Police Who Knowingly Violated the First Amendment

    Jay Schweikert | April 12, 2021

    The Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized qualified immunity as protecting “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” Even taken at face value, that standard of care is depressingly low, especially with respect to law enforcement—i.e., the profession expressly charged with knowing and enforcing the law. But the Tenth Circuit’s recent decision in Frasier v. Evans illustrates how this oft-repeated maxim is itself highly misleading—because even when police officers do,

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  • New Mexico Enacts Landmark Qualified Immunity Reform for All Public Officials

    Jay Schweikert | April 7, 2021

    Today, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law House Bill 4, otherwise known as the New Mexico Civil Rights Act. This landmark piece of legislation creates a state-law cause of action against any public official who violates someone’s rights under the New Mexico State Constitution, and it specifically provides that qualified immunity is not available as a defense. The statute is therefore quite similar to both Colorado’s Law Enforcement Integrity and Accountability Act,

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  • NYC Council passes qualified immunity reform bill bolstering citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights

    James Craven | March 31, 2021

    The New York City Council passed landmark legislation last week that will allow citizens to sue police for violations of their Fourth Amendment rights. The bill awaits the signature of Mayor de Blasio, who has indicated support for the measure.

    Stephen Levin, above, introduced “Int. 2220-A – Ends qualified immunity for police officers”

    New York is the first city to pass legislation that would allow citizens to sue police officers for excessive force or unlawful searches and seizures without first overcoming the high hurdle of qualified immunity. The NYPD is the largest municipal police force in the United States, underscoring the wide reach of the landmark legislation.

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  • The Supreme Court Won’t Save Us from Qualified Immunity

    Jay Schweikert | March 3, 2021

    Qualified immunity is a judicial doctrine invented by the Supreme Court that shields public officials from liability, even when they violate people’s constitutional rights, unless a court determines those rights were “clearly established.” Yesterday, USA Today ran an op-ed by Anya Bidwell and Patrick Jaicomo, two attorneys with the Institute for Justice, arguing that the “Supreme Court is rethinking qualified immunity.” They base this conclusion on the outcomes in three recent Supreme Court cases — 

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  • The Supreme Court pushes back against rigid construction of “clearly established law,” remands case where prisoner was maliciously attacked with pepper spray.

    James Craven | February 22, 2021

    The Supreme Court’s remand suggests that it may want the Fifth Circuit to embrace the rule that the law is clearly established when “no reasonable officer” could believe their misconduct to be constitutional. 

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