James Craven | May 10, 2021
The theoretical justification for the many absurd outcomes of qualified immunity cases is that without the clear guidance of existing case law, public officials would not be able to discern what conduct is permissible under the plain text of the Constitution. There are a lot of flaws with this reasoning, but a new article from noted immunity studies scholar and UCLA Professor Joanna Schwartz has identified a particularly damning one: police officers don’t study “clearly established law” at all.
Jay Schweikert | May 7, 2021
The Major Cities Chiefs Association (“MCCA”) is an organization of 79 police chiefs, commissioners, and sheriffs representing the largest cities in the United States and Canada. Last year, I wrote about how the MCCA put out a misleading “Law Enforcement Reform Policy Statement,” which said that the organization “opposes repealing or amending the qualified immunity statute” (even though, of course, there is no qualified immunity statute).
James Craven | May 5, 2021
A forthcoming law review article from Professor Katherine Crocker of William and Mary Law School endorses repealing qualified immunity, which protects individual public officials from lawsuits alleging a violation of constitutional rights (§ 1983 claims). But it also suggests going one step further: repeal the Monell doctrine and expand § 1983 to let people sue the government entity as well. Crocker predicts that “the most likely consequence” of increasing entity liability “would be for governments to increase their insistence that individual officers help pay constitutional-tort costs in exceptionally egregious cases.”
Jay Schweikert | May 5, 2021
At the end of March, the New York City Council passed city-level qualified immunity reform, allowing civil suits against police officers that violate people’s Fourth Amendment rights, and explicitly providing that qualified immunity is not a defense. And though the law has yet to take effect, it has already provoked a clear response from the police unions that represent NYPD officers, in the form of a letter sent to all their members.
James Craven | May 4, 2021
This Wednesday, Reuters will be hosting a free video panel where the most influential scholars in qualified immunity jurisprudence will be debating the doctrine’s future as Congress considers dramatic reform. The panel includes Cato Institute’s own Jay Schweikert, author of Qualified Immunity: A Legal, Practical, and Moral Failure; Andrew Chung, author of Reuter’s groundbreaking study of how qualified immunity impacts excessive force cases; Scott Keller, one of the most prominent academic defenders of qualified immunity;