END QUALIFIED IMMUNITY ACT
US Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) will co-lead with Justin Amash (L-MI) the effort to pass the End Qualified Immunity Act, which would eliminate a “permanent procedural roadblock for plaintiffs” that thwarts them from “obtaining damages for having their rights violated.”
Ever since Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1871, individuals have been able to sue state and local officers for infringing on their constitutional rights. But in 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government officials were entitled to qualified immunity from civil-rights lawsuits, if their actions didn’t violate “clearly established” rights.
Ending qualified immunity would “restore Americans’ ability to obtain relief when police officers violate their constitutionally secured rights." At the same time, it would also provide a powerful incentive for municipalities (who are generally responsible for paying out judgements and settlements) to restructure their law enforcement agencies and adopt policies and practices that curtail abuses of power. Those measures could include implementing de-escalation tactics and revising use-of-force standards, as well as firing and blacklisting rogue agents.
Abolishing qualified immunity does not mean that anyone who files a civil rights lawsuit would automatically win their case against an officer. Instead, it would eliminate a barrier that arbitrarily prevents juries from hearing and deciding cases on their merits.
Click below to read the Amash/Pressley letter to Congress.