Advocates From Left and Right Ask Supreme Court to Revisit Immunity Defense – By Alan Feuer – NYT

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.”

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Courts Sidestep the Law and South Carolina’s Poor Go to Jail – The New York Times

“SUMTER, S.C. — Larry Marsh has a history of mental illness and drug addiction. Homeless, he has no place to go. The police in this city have arrested or cited him more than 270 times for trespassing. In December, they got him four times in one day.

For this misdemeanor offense, Mr. Marsh, 58, has repeatedly served time in jail, and was even sent to prison. Not once has he had a lawyer.Being represented by a lawyer is a fundamental right, enshrined in the Sixth Amendment and affirmed by the Supreme Court, which has ruled that anyone facing imprisonment, even for a minor offense, is entitled to legal counsel. But the promise has been a fragile one, with repeated complaints that people without means are stuck with lawyers who are incompetent, underfunded or grossly overworked.

In municipal courts that handle low-level crimes, poor defendants can face a worse problem: no lawyer at all. Recent reports detail a failure to provide lawyers in Nashville and Miami-Dade courtrooms, and in 2015, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, held hearings on the issue, saying the right to a lawyer was frequently ignored in misdemeanor cases.”