By Alan Feuer
July 11, 2018
“An array of criminal justice advocates — civil libertarians, a law enforcement organization, even a group run by the industrialist Koch brothers — has joined forces to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider the contentious doctrine of qualified immunity, which permits the authorities to avoid being sued for misconduct even when they violate the law.
In a submission to the high court on Wednesday, the group of advocates cited the now-familiar litany of fatal shootings by police across the country and said that qualified immunity had time and again denied relief to the victims of abuse and had eroded trust in law enforcement officers.
“Official accountability is in crisis,” it said.
In recent years, a broad, bipartisan consensus on many criminal justice issues has started to emerge both in Washington and in many state capitals, but even so, Jay Schweikert, a lawyer for the Cato Institute who helped assemble the coalition behind the petition to the court, said he had never seen a brief as “ideologically diverse” as the one filed Wednesday. Its signatories included the American Civil Liberties Union, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the Second Amendment Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group run by the Koch brothers.
Twice since 2015, the Supreme Court has issued rulings widely expanding the scope of qualified immunity and paring back the public’s power to sue the police or other law enforcement officials for misconduct and abuse. The decisions have been criticized by criminal justice activists and, on rare occasions, by other judges. Last month, a federal judge in Brooklyn, Jack B. Weinstein, took an unusual swipe at the court’s recent rulings in an order he issued denying immunity to four New York police officers.”