Jay Schweikert | September 25, 2020
The doctrine of qualified immunity protects public officials from civil liability, even when they break the law, unless a civil rights plaintiff can show that the defendant violated “clearly established law.” This rule is nominally an interpretation of our primary federal civil rights statute, Section 1983, but that statute says nothing about any immunity, qualified or otherwise. And the recent scholarship of William Baude, which Justice Thomas himself has relied on in calling for qualified immunity to be reconsidered,
James Craven | September 19, 2020
Last night, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away due to complications from cancer. Justice Ginsburg, the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, became well-known late in her career for authoring and joining in many poignant dissents. She was also a known skeptic of the qualified immunity doctrine.
Justice Ginsburg joined the dissent in Kisela v. Hughes, a case where a police officer who shot a woman four times because she was holding a kitchen knife was granted qualified immunity.
James Craven | September 16, 2020
Police broke down the door of Georgia resident Onree Norris with a battering ram. Officers threw several flash grenades before entering.
Norris, 79, was visibly shaken and confused. Just outside the house, Lieutenant Marlow turned to Officer Hicks and asked: “what are they doing over there?”
“I have no clue,” Hicks responded, according to his deposition.
Jay Schweikert | September 14, 2020
Today, Cato published my official policy analysis on qualified immunity, titled “Qualified Immunity: A Legal, Practical, and Moral Failure.” As the name suggests, this PA explains how the doctrine of qualified immunity lacks any proper legal basis, is incapable of consistent, principled application by lower courts, and regularly denies justice to victims of egregious misconduct. It also discusses practical proposals for eliminating or substantially modifying qualified immunity, and it responds to common objections or misunderstandings related to the doctrine.
James Craven | September 11, 2020
An article published Thursday in The Wall Street Journal’s Life and Arts section centers its sights on qualified immunity, criticizing the doctrine for making government “unaccountability the norm and accountability the hard-won exception.” The article comes from ACLU legal directors Scott Michelman and David Cole.