The Corner

Law & the Courts

Farewell to Qualified-Immunity Reform for Now

A couple weeks back I had a long piece about the legal doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which makes it difficult to sue police officers who violate constitutional rights. I urged the Supreme Court to reconsider its precedents in this area, but also urged Congress to rewrite the law no matter what the Court did, so that it could tailor the policy to our particular circumstances rather than trying to apply a 150-year-old law and decades’ worth of dubious court rulings.

I am apparently not very influential.

On the judicial front, the Court rejected several immunity cases yesterday, so it won’t be addressing the issue, at least for a while. And in terms of legislation, while there are several proposals floating around — including ending immunity for cops outright — the White House has said qualified immunity is off the table, and Senator Tim Scott has called it a “poison pill.” Maybe some congressional hardball could result in a rule limiting the doctrine without ending it, which I would consider the ideal outcome, but for the time being it seems unlikely.

Of course, if qualified immunity doesn’t change, the serious problems with it won’t go anywhere, either, and we’ll come back to this issue eventually.

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