With Black Lives Matter's protests against police brutality remaining a major theme in a turbulent year, the doctrine of qualified immunity is in the spotlight. Defense has long been a controversial doctrine among legal scholars and civil rights attorneys and has been expanded over the years to protect police officers who use violence against civilians from liability. At the federal level, a bill to end qualified immunity has made no progress since it was introduced in Congress.
In SCOTUS Review: Section 1983 Police Misconduct, author and former Administrative Complaints Judge Wayne Beyer discussed several Supreme Court cases that have significantly influenced the qualified immunity doctrine in recent years. Here are three legal principles that both plaintiffs and defenders must adhere to:
Spectator requirements. Some law enforcement agencies require officers to stop or intervene if other officers misconduct. To obtain viewer liability, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) a law enforcement officer knew that his colleague had violated the plaintiff's rights; (2) had a reasonable opportunity to prevent harm; and (3) the officer did not act (Stevenson v City of Seat Pleasant, 743 F.3d 411 (4th Cir. 2014).
Municipal liability. Plaintiffs attorneys may face municipal liability for "willful indifference" in recruitment (Board of Comm & # 39; rs by Bryan Cty. V. Brown, 520 US 397) and training (City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 US 378). 1989), supervision and discipline. To exploit this plea, the plaintiffs' attorneys must be able to establish an immediate cause.
Loss of life according to § 1983. Large settlements in publicly known cases raise questions about how deaths under §1983 are to be assessed. Practitioners need to know who has the right to sue regarding the survival and death of the forum and the extent to which they have been used in §1983 actions. Plaintiffs can also seek additional federal funding such as "hedonic" damage for the loss of the victim's life or noneconomic losses for family members such as grief or loss of companionship. Under 42 U.S.C. §1988 federal courts can take out loans from state law if they meet the compensation and deterrent goals of § 1983.
Suggested resources. In his program, Mr. Beyer provides a list of resources that lawyers can use to determine whether an officer’s behavior falls below the standard of police force best practices from leading organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Police Executive Research Forum, and the US Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice.
In recent months, the Supreme Court rejected eight Certiorari petitions for qualified immunity cases, and no new qualified immunity cases are planned for the 2020-2021 Protocol. This may be a relief for civil rights lawyers given the current composition of the Court, but we will certainly watch the Court for further developments.
To learn more about the Qualified Immunity Doctrine and for additional resources, read the full program here.
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This article was prepared with the help of Elsie Tan, a student at New York Law School.