Access to Justice

RELEASE: 89 Organizations to Senate: “Qualified Immunity Doctrine Must End Without Exception” 

WASHINGTON – Today, Constitutional Accountability Center is releasing a letter on behalf of 89 organizations calling on the Senate to “end qualified immunity to ensure meaningful accountability measures in the Senate version of the Justice in Policing Act of 2021.” 

Read the letter here: https://www.theusconstitution.org/testimony/cac-letter-urging-the-senate-to-end-qualified-immunity/

Key excerpts:  

The Reconstruction-era Congress wrote 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of liberty and equality by holding police and other state actors accountable for violating the constitutional rights of the public they swear to protect. The text of Section 1983 is as clear as can be: it makes officials acting under color of state law categorically liable for constitutional violations and provides no immunities from suit. Rather than heeding this text, the Supreme Court has interpreted Section 1983 to give officers sweeping immunity from suit, even when they engage in brutal conduct, disproportionately harming the marginalized communities the Fourteenth Amendment was meant to protect. 

[T]he U.S. Supreme Court created from whole cloth the legal doctrine of qualified immunity, which shields government officials from civil liability when they violate people’s constitutional rights in all but the rarest cases, creating a sweeping defense that does not exist in the text of our laws... 

Qualified immunity reaches further than the realm of policing and unfairly insulates from accountability a wide range of other government officials. This includes, but is not limited to, school officials, caseworkers, social workers, detention and correctional facility staffers, probation officers, and government employers…. 

Due to the immense harm that qualified immunity has caused, this judge-made doctrine must be ended across the board to ensure government accountability and encourage courts to play their historic role of redressing abuse of power, as Section 1983 intended. It should not be codified into law by removing, reforming, or modifying the immunity for some government actors but not for all. 

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Resources 

Letter on behalf of 89 organizations to Senate leaders, “End qualified immunity to ensure meaningful accountability measures in the Senate version of the Justice in Policing Act of 2021,” May 10, 2021: https://www.theusconstitution.org/testimony/cac-letter-urging-the-senate-to-end-qualified-immunity/

Qualified Immunity | Beyond Policing (CAC one-pager): https://www.theusconstitution.org/think_tank/qualified-immunity-beyond-policing/ 

CAC Narrative: We Do Not Want To Be Hunted: The Right To Be Secure and Our Constitutional Story of Race and Policing, David H. Gans, July 23, 2020: https://www.theusconstitution.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/We_Do_Not_Want_To_Be_Hunted.pdf (Published by the Columbia Journal of Race and Law, April 2021: https://journals.library.columbia.edu/index.php/cjrl/article/view/8230/4234 

List of letter signatories (in alphabetical order):  

A Little Piece of Light  

Active Advocate 

African American Ministers In Action 

Alliance for Justice 

American Atheists 

American Civil Liberties Union 

American Friends Service Committee 

Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) 

Amnesty International USA 

Autistic Self Advocacy Network 

BACC 

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action 

Black With No Chaser 

Blacks in Law Enforcement of America 

Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) 

Center for Disability Rights 

Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research (CLEAR) 

Civil Rights Corps 

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces 

Constitutional Accountability Center 

DC Democratic Caucus for Returning Citizens 

Defending Rights & Dissent 

Demand Justice 

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund 

Drug Policy Alliance 

Earthjustice 

Equal Justice Society 

Equity and Transformation 

Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO) 

Faith Action Network – Washington State 

Freedom From Religion Foundation 

Friends Committee on National Legislation 

Girls Inc. 

Government Information Watch 

Hispanic Federation 

Human Rights Campaign 

Human Rights Watch 

Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project 

Impact Fund 

Innocence Project 

Interfaith Action for Human Rights 

Jewish Council for Public Affairs 

Justice Action Center 

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement 

Lambda Legal 

Law Enforcement Action Partnership 

Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG) 

LGBT Bar Association of New York 

LivableStreets Alliance 

Lovelace Consulting Services, Inc. (LCSI) 

Mayers Strategic Solutions, LLC 

Muslim Advocates 

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd 

National Association of Social Workers 

National Council of Churches 

National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) 

National Employment Law Project 

National Equality Action Team (NEAT) 

National Immigration Project 

National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights 

National Organization for Women 

National Partnership for Women & Families 

NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL 

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice 

New Athens Creative, Inc. 

Oasis Legal Services 

Open Society Policy Center 

People For the American Way 

People’s Parity Project 

Project On Government Oversight 

Protect Democracy 

Public Justice 

Restore The Fourth 

Sanctuary DMV 

Southern Border Communities Coalition 

Southern Coalition for Social Justice 

SPLC Action Fund 

Students for Sensible Drug Policy 

The Black Police Experience  

The Center for HIV Law and Policy 

The Center for Popular Democracy 

The Daniel Initiative  

The Daniel Initiative S.E.T. Project 

Ujima, Inc: The National Center on Violence Against Black Women 

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee 

Veracity Entertainment, LLC 

Voices for Progress 

Vote Huntsville 

Wisconsin Transit Riders Alliance 

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Constitutional Accountability Center is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history. Visit CAC’s website at www.theusconstitution.org.

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