Qualified Immunity | Beyond Policing

Summary

In 1967, the 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. Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, as it currently exists, government officials cannot be held personally liable unless they have violated a constitutional right that was “clearly established” at the time of the violation. In practice, it has become very difficult to meet this standard, because plaintiffs are often required to identify prior case law involving nearly identical fact patterns. Even in cases in which the defendant’s actions were obviously wrong, the plaintiff is often denied relief and the government official escapes accountability.

While many recent discussions around qualified immunity revolve around law enforcement, qualified immunity reaches further than the realm of policing and has thwarted justice for rights violations that take place in schools, detention facilities, child protective contexts, and more. The following is just a small sample of cases in which qualified immunity was granted in egregious circumstances that do not involve law enforcement.

 

More from Access to Justice

Access to Justice
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Roe v. United States

In Roe v. United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is considering whether an employee of the federal judiciary can sue under the Fifth Amendment for sex discrimination experienced in the...
Access to Justice
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

J.W. v. Paley

In J.W. v. Paley, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is considering whether public school officials who use excessive physical force against students may be held accountable for violating the Fourth Amendment.
Access to Justice
U.S. Supreme Court

Frasier v. Evans

In Frasier v. Evans, the Supreme Court is being asked to consider whether police officers who knowingly violated a person’s First Amendment right to film them making an arrest are entitled to qualified immunity.
Access to Justice
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Gonzalez v. Trevino

In Gonzalez v. Trevino, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is considering what threshold requirements individuals must satisfy to bring First Amendment claims against a state or local official for arresting them...
Access to Justice
June 25, 2021

RELEASE: Roberts Court Hands Business Another Win, Closes Courthouse Doors to Those Harmed by Corporation

WASHINGTON – Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, Constitutional Accountability Center...
By: Elizabeth B. Wydra
Access to Justice
May 10, 2021

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...