Supreme Court Dodges Qualified Immunity Cases
Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in a series of cases dealing with qualified immunity – the court-invented rule shielding government officials, including law enforcement, from courtroom accountability.
The Cato Institute’s Jay Schweikert wrote the court’s refusal to act was a “shocking dereliction of duty.”
In Corbitt v. Vickers, for example, the Supreme Court let stand an Eleventh Circuit decision granting immunity to a police officer who shot a ten‐year‐old child in the back of the knee, while repeatedly attempting to shoot a pet dog that wasn’t threatening anyone. And in Baxter v. Bracey, the Court let stand a Sixth Circuit decision which said that a prior case holding it unconstitutional for police to deploy a canine against a suspect who had surrendered by laying on the ground did not “clearly establish” that it was unlawful for police to deploy a canine against a suspect who had surrendered by sitting on the ground with his hands up.
Schweikert noted that Justice Clarence Thomas was the only member of the court who would have agreed to hear any of the qualified immunity cases.
With the court staying on the sidelines, any action on qualified immunity will have to come from Congress. House Democrats are prepared reform qualified immunity, while Senate Republicans say the issue is a non-starter.
Image Credit: Joe Ravi [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons