Select Page

Qualified Immunity Is an Unqualified Disgrace 

In 2014, a Colorado social worker allegedly strip-searched and photographed a 4-year-old girl without a warrant. The mother sued on behalf of her traumatized daughter, but the two courts that subsequently dismissed the case never ruled on whether the girl’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

Instead, a U.S. district court and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the caseworker was shielded from the lawsuit by the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which essentially allows public officials to violate a constitutional right as long as the right has not yet been clearly established in the courts. Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this magazine), the Cato Institute, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have now filed petitions asking the Supreme Court to review the current standard for qualified immunity.

The ACLU’s petition is on behalf of Alexander Baxter, a Nashville man who was bitten by a police dog while he had his hands in the air, surrendering. Baxter sued, alleging excessive force, but the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 that it wasn’t clear using a police dog to apprehend him while his hands were raised was unconstitutional.

Judges of all stripes have assailed qualified immunity. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in 2017 that the doctrine should be revisited, while Justice Sonia Sotomayor has bemoaned its effects on lawsuits over police misconduct.

U.S. Circuit Judge Don Willett, who was reportedly on President Donald Trump’s shortlist for the Supreme Court, wrote in a 2018 decision that “to some observers, qualified immunity smacks of unqualified impunity, letting public officials duck consequences for bad behavior—no matter how palpably unreasonable—as long as they were the first to behave badly.”

In 2017, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s ruling that granted qualified immunity to a police officer who obtained not one but two warrants to take naked pictures of a 17-year-old boy suspected of sending sexually explicit photos to his 15-year-old girlfriend. The officer then allegedly forced the teen to masturbate in front of him so he could get a picture of his erect penis.

“A reasonable police officer would have known that attempting to obtain a photograph of a minor child’s erect penis, by ordering the child to masturbate in the presence of others, would unlawfully invade the child’s right of privacy under the Fourth Amendment,” the court wrote.

Under qualified immunity, state actors can get away with almost anything. There’s nothing constitutional about that.


This post has been republished with permission from a publicly-available RSS feed found on Reason. The views expressed by the original author(s) do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of The Libertarian Hub, its owners or administrators. Any images included in the original article belong to and are the sole responsibility of the original author/website. The Libertarian Hub makes no claims of ownership of any imported photos/images and shall not be held liable for any unintended copyright infringement. Submit a DCMA takedown request.

Read the original article.

About The Author

C.J. Ciaramella

Founded in 1968, Reason is the magazine of free minds and free markets. We produce hard-hitting independent journalism on civil liberties, politics, technology, culture, policy, and commerce. Reason exists outside of the left/right echo chamber. Our goal is to deliver fresh, unbiased information and insights to our readers, viewers, and listeners every day. Visit https://reason.com

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Welcome

Bringing together a variety of news and information from some of today’s most important libertarian thought leaders. All feeds are checked and refreshed every hour and pages auto-refresh every 15 minutes. External images are deleted after 30 days.

Time since last refresh: 0 second

Publish Your Own Article

Follow The Libertarian Hub

 

Support Our Work

Support the Libertarian Hub by tipping with Bitcoin!

Send BTC:
19PU2K7448gKxAvisR5cF6X5RquYfWu5vZ

Weekly Newsletter

Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a weekly email report of the top five most popular articles on the Libertarian Hub!

Weekly Newsletter SignupTop 5 Stories of the Week

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a weekly email report of the top five most popular articles on the Libertarian Hub!