New York City Council voted Thursday to end qualified immunity for law enforcement officers, making it the first city in the country to take such a move. Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that he will sign the measure.
Qualified immunity jurisprudence makes it notoriously difficult to sue government officials for violating your rights, and plaintiffs must find previous court precedent dealing with a case with nearly identical facts.
In a statement, the council said the legislation will “protect New Yorkers from improper search and seizure, as well as excessive violence, and prohibit the use of qualified immunity or substantially equivalent immunity as a defense”.
The law allows victims of police misconduct to sue officials under local law as qualified immunity continues to exist at the federal level. Colorado and Connecticut passed similar laws last year, and several other states are considering joining them, including New Mexico and Florida.
At present, such localized action is arguably the best option for plaintiffs, as a fragmented Congress and the Supreme Court are unwilling to fundamentally reconsider the doctrine. Former MP Justin Amash (L-Mich.) Tabled a bill to end qualified immunity for all state actors in June 2020: it was supported by three parties but never received a vote. (Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Amash’s original co-sponsor, reintroduced the bill earlier this month.) The police justice bill recently passed by the US House also removes qualified immunity for law enforcement Filibuster remains intact, Senate is unlikely to pass.
While the Court delivered some promising messages on qualified immunity at this session, it has repeatedly refused to fully evaluate them. This lack of property has drawn criticism from those who suggest that it was the Court itself that instituted qualified immunity.
Most recently, the judges declined to hear an appeal from a man who was beaten and arrested by two police officers for standing in front of his own house. The US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit granted the pair of officers qualified immunity.
Legal doctrine is intended to protect state actors from empty civil lawsuits. Instead, it protects them from deserving ones. Qualified immunity shielded two police officers who stole US $ 225,000 while executing a search warrant, a police officer who shot and killed a 10-year-old, a police officer who wrecked a man’s car during a fake drug search, a prison guard, who went into hiding while an escaped inmate raped a nurse, two policemen who brought a police dog on a surrendered suspect, a policeman who killed a man he arrested by kneeling in the eye 20 to 30 times, inflicted permanent damage, and a policeman who shot and killed a 15-year-old, among other things.