Qualified Immunity Generally
Qualified Immunity is a legal doctrine that makes it extremely difficult to sue a police officer or his or her department for wrong and usually illegal conduct by their officers. Unless you are able to show that the government official in question violated a “clearly established” law, then you will not be able to hold an officer or department financially responsible for their actions. This would include both constitutional and statutory rights. It is important to note that qualified immunity is not just immunity from having to pay money damages, it’s actually immunity from having to face any sort of trial at all. One of the biggest chants coming from civil rights protestors is that of ending qualified immunity so officers are held accountable for their actions. The incredible power of police unions and police departments has been a focus of public anger in recent months, leading to calls for police reforms of all kinds, including that of ending qualified immunity.
Mississippi Federal Judge’s Statement
A United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi has granted an order giving a police officer qualified immunity for the damage caused to a black man’s car during an extended traffic stop. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves granted immunity because he had to, not because he wanted to. The first three pages of the judge’s opinion listed all of the things that the defendant was not doing to draw the attention of the police. With each statement as to what he wasn’t doing, that statement applied to a famous case where police brutality was involved. For example, the first two statements said that Clarence Jamison (the defendant) wasn’t jaywalking and wasn’t outside playing with a toy gun. These two statements were supported by footnotes that cited their corresponding cases; these two being Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri (jaywalking), and 12-year-old Tamir Rice (playing with toy gun). The judge followed this list of cases by stating that Clarence Jamison was a Black man driving a Mercedes convertible. He also states that Jamison was a man denied equal protection under the law because of a judicially created doctrine known as qualified immunity. While the law gives this officer immunity, the judge declared that this legal jargon and this does not mean the officer is exonerated of his wrongdoing. The Judge simply stated, “this has to stop.”
What Happens Next?
United States District Court Judge Carlton Reeves made a plea to the United States Supreme Court in his opinion on this case, specifically calling on them to hear a case on qualified immunity so the doctrine can be ended once and for all. He stated, “just as the Supreme Court swept away the mistaken doctrine of separate but equal, so too should it eliminate the doctrine of qualified immunity.” The United States Supreme Court recently rejected hearing a number of qualified immunity cases this past June. It seems it will take more pressure from more judges and other legal minds in the near future in order to push the Supreme Court to accept a qualified immunity case. Calls for more accountability for police and even to defund the police have grown louder and stronger in the recent months due to the horrific murder on camera of George Floyd.
Any Further Questions?
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.