Today, Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.) unveiled a bill to reform qualified immunity for law enforcement. The Reforming Qualified Immunity Act would increase accountability across the board.
“Long-lasting, meaningful reform starts with fixing qualified immunity to protect the rights of citizens secured by the Constitution while protecting good police officers,” said Dr. Derek Cohen, policy director of Right on Crime at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “Senator Braun’s bill is an essential step in ensuring it is incumbent upon states and municipalities to properly train and equip their police.”
Braun’s bill establishes accountability and ensures that individuals whose rights are violated are given a day in court. Government employees would still be able to avoid personal liability when the “conduct alleged to be unlawful had previously been authorized or required by federal or state statute or regulation” or “a court had found that alleged unlawful conduct was consistent with the Constitution and federal laws.” But, in those cases, the government entity itself would still be liable for any constitutional violation.
Established by the Supreme Court, the qualified immunity legal doctrine allows civil suits when it can be shown that a law enforcement official’s actions violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right. In practice, the “clearly established” test becomes an impossible standard because civil rights plaintiffs often must identify a nearly identical violation already recognized by the Supreme Court or appellate courts in the same jurisdiction.