Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that shields government officials, including police officers, from being held personally liable for actions taken in the course of their duties. The doctrine was established by the Supreme Court in 1967, and has been applied in a wide range of cases since then.
While qualified immunity was intended to protect government officials from frivolous lawsuits, it has also been criticized for making it difficult to hold officials accountable for civil rights violations. In recent years, there has been growing concern about the impact of qualified immunity on the struggle for civil rights and social justice.
One of the key implications of qualified immunity is that it can make it difficult for individuals to hold police officers accountable for civil rights violations. For example, in cases where an officer uses excessive force, it can be difficult to establish that the officer violated a "clearly established" constitutional right, which is required to overcome qualified immunity.
This can create a situation where police officers are effectively immune from civil liability for actions that may be unconstitutional or in violation of civil rights. In some cases, this has led to a lack of accountability and a sense of impunity among some police officers, which can erode public trust and undermine efforts to promote greater equality and social justice.
Another implication of qualified immunity is that it can make it difficult to establish legal precedent around civil rights issues. Because qualified immunity is a high legal bar, it can be difficult for individuals to successfully challenge established legal precedent. This can make it difficult to establish new legal protections for civil rights and social justice issues.
There has been growing concern about the impact of qualified immunity on the struggle for civil rights and social justice, and a number of organizations and advocates have called for reforms to the doctrine. Some proposals have included eliminating qualified immunity altogether, while others have called for more narrowly defining the circumstances under which it can be applied.
Ultimately, the implications of qualified immunity on the struggle for civil rights are significant. The doctrine has the potential to make it difficult to hold police officers accountable for civil rights violations, and can also make it difficult to establish new legal protections for civil rights and social justice issues. As such, there is a need for continued advocacy and activism to promote greater accountability and social justice for all.
Joshua Newville is a Minnesota employment lawyer, civil rights attorney, and mediator. Josh litigates and advises on such matters as wrongful termination, whistleblowers, discrimination, police misconduct, and more. He offers paid legal consultations and free online case reviews regarding employment law and civil rights.