ADVERTISEMENT

George Floyd, a forgery suspect, died after a police officer kept his knee on his neck for an unreasonably extended period. Mr. Floyd was black. And while the details are unfolding, it looks all too familiar to represent a pattern of hostile treatment that African Americans receive from a persistent segment of police officers. 

In my view, judges must share some of the responsibility for this state of affairs. 

Federal law makes it very clear that when state officials violate the constitutional rights of an individual, that person can sue for civil rights damages. 

But the Supreme Court and lower courts have carved out an exception. These decisions say that if the constitutional right was not “clearly established” then the official doesn’t have to pay any damages. 

And this doctrine has been used to say that unless almost the exact same facts have occurred and found to be unconstitutional in the past then it’s not clearly established. 

What’s worse is that the judges aren’t required to go ahead and rule whether or not the actions were unconstitutional so that it is settled for future cases. 

So, let’s assume that the officers in this Minnesota case are sued and they are given qualified immunity, then next year the same thing happens—another police officer kneels on a man’s neck excessively and kills him—that second officer will also get away with it because the court never announced a decision on the merits of the first case. 

This whole doctrine allows police departments to be less than meticulous about insisting that their officers always obey the Constitution. 

This doctrine applies in many other contexts. University officials consistently deny free speech rights on campus. But when they are sued for damages they claim qualified immunity and get away with it far too often. 

This whole doctrine needs to end. 

The first time an official disobeys the Constitution he should have to pay. If a citizen violates the law, he can’t say that he cannot be found guilty unless there is a parallel prior case that found this same kind of conduct to be illegal. 

Want to end racial disparity? Want to ensure free speech?

The courts must put an end to qualified immunity. The Constitution should bind every official every time they act.

Subscribe For Latest Updates

Sign up to receive stimulating conservative Christian commentary in your inbox.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Thanks for subscribing!
You May Also Like

Jumping Into Medicare For All With Eyes Wide Shut

Marilyn Singleton: Medicare for All could be one of those concepts that “seemed like a good idea at the time” – just like diving head first off a cliff into an inviting but shallow pool of water.

Trump Calls On Governors to Reopen Churches

President Donald Trump said that houses of worship are essential and called on governors to open them during an impromptu press briefing at the White House.

The Mueller Investigation Is Over, Now We Wait

Attorney General William Barr informed Senate and House Judiciary Committee leadership that Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion is over.

Hendrickson: ‘Hands Off The Supreme Court’

John Hendrickson: “The threat of ‘packing’ the Supreme Court should alarm every American because it threatens the very foundations of our constitutional republic.”