Taking the fight against qualified immunity back to the Supreme Court
The Institute for Justice is taking the fight against qualified immunity back to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to take up two cases in which federal law enforcement officials violated individual constitutional rights.
The first appeal seeks to overturn an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that granted immunity to a federally deputized St. Paul, Minnesota, police officer whose well-documented lies and deception cost Hamdi Mohamud—who was a teenage Somali refugee—two years of her life unjustly spent behind bars.
The second IJ appeal, filed on behalf of Kevin Byrd, seeks to reverse a 5th Circuit decision that also granted immunity to an officer with a federal badge—a Department of Homeland Security agent who tried to smash Kevin’s car window with a gun, and unlawfully detained him at gunpoint (even unsuccessfully pulling the trigger), all to prevent him from investigating the involvement of the agent’s son in a drunk-driving accident. After seeing the video recording of the incident, officers released Kevin and arrested the agent.
As the IJ notes, ten of millions of Americans live in states where federal courts have given law enforcement what amounts to a get out of jail free card to officers who violate individual’s constitutional rights:
“Right now, if you live in the heartland of America—from Minnesota to Louisiana and Texas to North Dakota—anyone who carries a federal badge can violate your constitutional rights with absolute impunity,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Anya Bidwell. “There is a federal statute that allows state and local officers to be held accountable when they violate someone’s constitutional rights, and the courts have leaned on the fact that there is no analogous law doing the same for federal officers, thereby allowing them to escape accountability. But this groundless legal theory ignores the first 200 years of this nation’s history and the limits on federal officials imposed by the Constitution itself. Federal appeals courts will continue to advance this legal fiction with horrific consequences for ordinary Americans…until the U.S. Supreme Court fixes this once and for all.”
As it should. The court-created doctrine’s continued existence makes a mockery of the rule of law and has no place in a nation that likes to say it values individual rights.