Monday, July 20, 2020

Cato Institute: Two out of three favor eliminating qualified immunity

Qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine that shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations—like the right to be free from excessive police force—for money damages under federal law so long as the officials did not violate “clearly established” law, according to the Cato Institute.
While once a fairly unknown legal doctrine, nearly half (47%) of Americans say they’ve heard about qualified immunity, while 53% say they have not. Those who have heard of qualified immunity are more in favor of ending it (69% favor) compared to those who had not heard of it before (58% favor).
The Cato Institute Summer 2020 National Survey of 2,000 Americans conducted with YouGov finds that nearly two​thirds (63%) of Americans support eliminating qualified immunity so that police officers can be sued for misconduct even if there is no previous legal case with similar facts that ruled officers may not engage in that conduct. Thirty​seven percent (37%) oppose ending qualified immunity.
Even in situations where police officers did not know they were breaking the law, Americans say officers should be held accountable. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans (79%) say that if a police officer violates a person’s rights but was “unaware at the time that their actions were illegal” they should be held accountable for that misconduct. Most also believe lawsuits should be on the table. A similar share (77%) say police should not be able to avoid lawsuits for misconduct using ignorance of the law as a defense.
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