Barrett May be a Catalyst for Ending Qualified Immunity
Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.
One major current issue that leaps out of Supreme Court Amy Coney Barrett’s legal writings: her seeming willingness to tackle, and maybe end, qualified immunity – the court-created doctrine that shields government officials and law enforcement from accountability.
As Reason Magazine’s Jacob Sullum writes:
…William Rainsberger was arrested for murdering his 88-year-old mother, he spent two months in jail before he was released on bail. A year later, prosecutors dropped the case, citing a lack of evidence. That decision was not surprising, because Rainsberger’s arrest was based on a probable cause affidavit written by an Indianapolis detective who misrepresented crucial facts and omitted exculpatory information.
The detective, Charles Benner, nevertheless argued that Rainsberger could not sue him under 42 USC 1983, a federal statute that allows people to seek damages when government officials violate their constitutional rights. In a 2019 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit demolished Benner’s argument that he was protected by qualified immunity, a court-invented doctrine that limits such claims to cases in which officials are accused of violating “clearly established” law.
The author of that opinion: Amy Coney Barrett, who held that police lies and omissions were reckless violations of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Barrett has a number of other decisions relating to the Fourth Amendment, some of which can be found here. Bottom line: Barrett may be more of a friend to law enforcement reformers and Fourth Amendment backers than they think.
Image Credit: Joe Ravi [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons