Can Republicans Be Persuaded to Restrict Qualified Immunity?

Polling shows a sharp partisan divide on the issue, but it also suggests that compromise might be possible.

by Jacob Sullum

Qualified immunity for cops accused of misconduct is the biggest point of disagreement between Democrats and Republicans in the congressional debate about police reform. While polling confirms a sharp partisan divide on the issue, a detailed University of Maryland survey conducted last year suggests there may be room for a solution that can pass the Senate as well as the House.

Under 42 USC 1983, state and local officials can be sued for violating people’s constitutional or statutory rights under color of law. But in the 1982 case Harlow v. Fitzgerald, the U.S. Supreme Court held that such claims can proceed only when the alleged misconduct violated “clearly established” law, a doctrine that frequently lets police officers accused of outrageous behavior escape accountability by arguing that what they did was never specifically condemned in a prior judicial decision.

Continue Reading at…