Stop Abuses: End State Officials’ Immunity from Being Sued

The Problem

The U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1871 allows people to sue state or local officials for violations of civil rights in the US Constitution or laws. But, in 1967, the Supreme Court gave these officials “qualified immunity” from being sued, with no basis in law or the Constitution. It made suing state or local officials invalid unless there is a precedent of a successful suit with the exact same facts, which is very rare. This is an example of one of hundreds of these cases:

In 1999 the 9th US Court of appeals ruled that two Fresno, California police officers, who stole $225,000 in assets while conducting a search warrant, could not be sued because their actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution against unreasonable searches. The reason was that there was no precedent of a court award ruling against anyone engaging in a robbery while searching a home.

The Court stated that the officers “did not have clear notice” that stealing the property violated the Constitution. By “did not have clear notice” they meant that there was no precedent of a successful suit for the exact same action.

Officers did not know that stealing while conducting a search approved by a judge’s warrant was not an “unreasonable search” according to the fourth amendment of the US Constitution! What were the judges in the 9th US Court of Appeals smoking? This is an outrageous violation of our constitutional rights.

On June 1, 2020 the Supreme court turned down for consideration seven cases related to qualified immunity, essentially confirming the present court interpretations. But Justices Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsberg have publicly stated their opposition to the qualified immunity doctrine.

We must restore the original meaning of this Civil Rights Act to prevent abuses by state and local officials, including police. Since states cover their employees with liability insurance to pay for damage awards, ending the immunity gives the state agencies an incentive to prevent abuses by its employees through improved discipline and training, since their insurance company premiums would go up more the more insurance claims the state agency makes.

What to Do

Click the images below to contact your Senators and Representative to vote for bills to end Qualified Immunity for state and local government officials.

Be sure to let them know to support the Ending Qualified Immunity Act introduced by Libertarian congressman Justin Amash. A similar bill was introduced by Republican Senator Mike Braun.

Senator Rubio Senator Scott
Rep. Rutherford, 4th Dist. Rep. Lawson, 5th Dist.