Pressley Calls for Ending Qualified Immunity for Police Officers, State and Local Officials

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Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-7th) and Michigan Congressman Justin Amash recently introduced legislation to eliminate qualified immunity, which would allow people to sue police officers who violate their rights.

Ayanna Pressley

“Qualified immunity shields police from accountability, impedes true justice, and undermines the constitutional rights of every person in this country,” said Pressley. “There can be no justice without healing and accountability, and there can be no true accountability with qualified immunity. It’s past time to end qualified immunity, and that’s exactly what this bill does.” breaks qualified immunity down:

"Qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine that shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations—like the right to be free from excessive police force—for money damages under federal law so long as the officials did not violate 'clearly established' law."

Qualified immunity dates back to 1871 and was originally passed to help the government combat Ku Klux Klan violence down South after the Civil War. There have been numerous Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals cases through the decades on the topic.

“Qualified immunity protects police and other officials from consequences even for horrific rights abuses,” said Amash (L-MI). “It prevents accountability for the ‘bad apples’ and undermines the public’s faith in law enforcement. It’s at odds with the text of the law and the intent of Congress, and it ultimately leaves Americans’ rights without appropriate protection."

If adopted into law, the proposed legislation would say that acting in good faith, and thinking that one's actions are lawful, is not a defense for immunity.

The bill is endorsed by ACLU of Massachusetts, Arab American Institute, Constitutional Accountability Center, Due Process Institute, Lawyers for Civil Rights, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Urban League, Republican Liberty Caucus, The Justice Collaborative, and Young Americans for Liberty, and more.