End Qualified Immunity

Below is the transcript of a speech I gave on June 9, 2020.

“I pledge allegiance
To my flag
And the Republic
For which it stands,
One nation
Indivisible,
With liberty
And justice
for all.

Liberty and justice for all.

When Francis Bellamy published the Pledge of Allegiance back in 1892 he planted a seed. This seed has since gone viral and it is hard to find a person in America who is not familiar with the Pledge of Allegiance since revised.

Liberty and justice are terms we are all familiar with.

Liberty (noun)

The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.

Justice (noun)

Just behavior or treatment.

Just (adjective)

Based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.

Injustice (noun)

Lack of fairness and justice.

The Doctrine of Qualified immunity (noun)

One Definition: A Supreme Court doctrine, which often protects law enforcement officers from being sued, even in cases where they demonstrably violate civil rights. Let me repeat, Law enforcement officers are entitled to qualified immunity when their actions do not violate a clearly established statutory or constitutional right.

My definition: A seed of injustice.

Qualified immunity prevents American citizens from obtaining justice if there hasn’t been a similar case in their jurisdiction where the court already decided that was a constitutional violation.

The following real-life example is taken from a recent FOX News article and highlights the qualified immunity doctrine in action:

“The simple fact is the majority of this time this situation happens to anyone, they have no recourse,” James King told FOX 17.

The Grand Rapids native says he was assaulted by plain cloth officers in a case of mistaken identity in 2014.

The incident was caught on camera, now 6 years later, the case will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

King’s lawyer says they have not been able to get the officers in court because of qualified immunity.

“The officers claimed that yes, even if we violated Mr. King’s rights, we can’t be held accountable under this doctrine created in 1982 because there wasn’t an exact case that mirrored the factual situation with the case we had with James,” King’s Attorney Patrick Jaicomo said.

https://www.fox17online.com/news/national-politics/amash-takes-aim-at-qualified-immunity-with-new-bill

The Ending Qualified Immunity Act proposed by Rep Justin Amash Libertarian-MI (White) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Democrat-MA (Black) seeks to end this source of injustice.

I summarize the bill as follows:

In 1871, to help realize the promise of equality protected in the Fourteenth Amendment, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1871, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, granting individuals the right to sue state and local officials who violate their rights, including police officers, under Section 1983.

Section 1983 never included a defense or immunity for government officials who act in good faith when violating rights, nor has it ever had a defense or immunity based on whether the right was “clearly established at the time of the violation.

From 1871 to 1967 government actors were not afforded qualified immunity for violating civil rights.

Since 1967, the Supreme Court has issued several decisions gutting this protection by inventing the qualified immunity doctrine, preventing police officers from being successfully sued for abuse of power or misconduct unless a prior case has “clearly established” that the abuse or misconduct is illegal-a unique protection that no other profession holds.

The Court’s broad interpretation of this doctrine allows police to violate constitutional rights with impunity, immunizing them for everything from unlawful traffic stops to brutality and murder. Qualified immunity shields police from accountability, impedes true justice, and undermines the constitutional rights of every person in this country.

Protecting bad cops from liability is bad for harmed parties, its bad for good cops, and its bad for the values we are committed to in this experiment we call America.

Many years ago, qualified immunity started off much narrower and it’s become much broader over the years. It is a seed of injustice that has gone viral. It’s past time to end qualified immunity.

Support the Ending Qualified Immunity Act. Let’s bring an end to this source of injustice.

Let us focus again,
On liberty
And justice
For all.

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