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Qualified Immunity

Lost_in_the_HTTP

Senior member
Nov 17, 2019
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The U.S. Supreme Court first introduced the qualified immunity doctrine in 1967, originally with the rationale of protecting law enforcement officials from frivolous lawsuits and financial liability in cases where they acted in good faith in unclear legal situations.


How do we get back to that; protecting honest officers from malicious suits without shielding bad officers from legitimate punishment?
 

woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
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Qualified immunity is for all government officials, not just police.

As I said in another thread, they are in effect shielded from liability anyway, because their employer has to pay their legal costs and any judgment against them in most cases, and because they don't have the money to pay judgments anyway so the plaintiffs always go after the City to collect.

Qualified immunity of government officials is to protect taxpayers from liability, not the police or other government officials.

Hence why ending qualified immunity won't improve police accountability. Focus needs to be on assured criminal liability and loss of job, without union contracts making termination nearly impossible. Loss of job and freedom are things the police will understand. Loss of someone else's money? Not so much.
 
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JEDIYoda

Lifer
Jul 13, 2005
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You use the words - Good faith? Do you think the animals who killed Breonna Taylor felt they were acting in good faith??
If a good cop is truly good that will all play out in the courts!
As I have said many times, the good Cops don`t care! They are good! It is the bad cops or the cops who are maginal who are crying!
 

compuwiz1

Admin Emeritus Elite Member
Oct 9, 1999
26,975
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Qualified immunity is probably more important today than it was in 1967, with the cop hate climate out there. If officers can't be protected against malicious lawsuits, then what protects them? Most LEOs are good. A handful are bad. I suppose they could carry some kind of liability insurance, but like medical malpractice insurance, it would be pretty expensive, if such coverage exists. When the risks become too high, personally, few will want to become cops. What do we do then, who will protect us? Citizens become policing militias? Vigilantes? I don't think I like the alternatives.
If that becomes the sticking point of passing any reform bill, we'll just end up with the status quo.
 

JEDIYoda

Lifer
Jul 13, 2005
33,269
2,971
126
Qualified immunity is for all government officials, not just police.

As I said in another thread, they are in effect shielded from liability anyway, because their employer has to pay their legal costs and any judgment against them in most cases, and because they don't have the money to pay judgments anyway so the plaintiffs always go after the City to collect.

Qualified immunity of government officials is to protect taxpayers from liability, not the police or other government officials.

Hence why ending qualified immunity won't improve police accountability. Focus needs to be on assured criminal liability and loss of job, without union contracts making termination impossible.
Yes that is true! But we are not talking about government officials!
Nobody here cares about qualified immunity as it concerns government officials!
We need to exempr all Police from being able to use qualified immunity to break the law and get away with it!
 

JEDIYoda

Lifer
Jul 13, 2005
33,269
2,971
126
Qualified immunity is probably more important today than it was in 1967, with the cop hate climate out there. If officers can't be protected against malicious lawsuits, then what protects them? Most LEOs are good. A handful are bad. I suppose they could carry some kind of liability insurance, but like medical malpractice insurance, it would be pretty expensive, if such coverage exists. When the risks become too high, personally, few will want to become cops. What do we do then, who will protect us? Citizens become policing militias? Vigilantes? I don't think I like the alternatives.
Again, a good cop has nothing to worry about! A bad cop on the other hand know his time is up.....
The Police need to be policed...they are in essence a gang!
 

woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
11,826
6,277
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Yes that is true! But we are not talking about government officials!
Nobody here cares about qualified immunity as it concerns government officials!
We need to exempr all Police from being able to use qualified immunity to break the law and get away with it!
Sure, but you're ignoring the other part of what I said. The police themselves are rarely if ever going to have to pay their legal fees or for any court judgment against them. Only the cities will pay. Hence, ending qualified immunity will not be a disincentive to police criminality.
 

Lost_in_the_HTTP

Senior member
Nov 17, 2019
954
389
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Qualified immunity is for all government officials, not just police.
Not initially according to the rulings in the Wiki, though it may have expanded to include more.

You may be thinking of the broader 'absolute immunity' which I also tend to disagree with. No one should be above being held responsible for bad acts.
 

Lost_in_the_HTTP

Senior member
Nov 17, 2019
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Hence, ending qualified immunity will not be a disincentive to police criminality.
That's why I propose the Unions have to pay and in at least some cases, the officers would lose their pension. The taxpayers should not be on the hook in many cases, UNLESS the department knowing retained a bad officer.
 

woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
11,826
6,277
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Not initially according to the rulings in the Wiki, though it may have expanded to include more.

You may be thinking of the broader 'absolute immunity' which I also tend to disagree with. No one should be above being held responsible for bad acts.
May have? Read your own wiki link. The summary doesn't even mention police. It may have started with one or two cases having to do with police, but today it applies across the board.

The rationale behind all forms of sovreign immunity, be they qualified or absolute, isn't to protect government officials. It's to protect taxpayers from having to pay for endless lawsuits against the government.

The individual officials are "protected" anyway even without immunity because, as I've said now multiple times, their employing agency is going to have to pay their legal bills and for any judgment against them.
 

woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
11,826
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That's why I propose the Unions have to pay and in at least some cases, the officers would lose their pension. The taxpayers should not be on the hook in many cases, UNLESS the department knowing retained a bad officer.
In order for that to be the case, you'd have to change a lot of laws, including laws going all the way back to British common law that our system was originally based on.

Respondeat superior, otherwise called agency theory, says that an employee acts as a "agent" of his employer when he or she does anything in the course and scope of his or her employment. That makes the city always on the hook if a police officer does something wrong.

Another set of laws says that every employer has to "indemnify" every employee against civil liability incurred based on actions performed while on the job.

You could try to carve out an exception for cops, but then who are the plaintiffs going to get paid by? They sometimes get multi-million dollar settlements and it sure as hell isn't from the cops themselves.
 

JEDIYoda

Lifer
Jul 13, 2005
33,269
2,971
126
Sure, but you're ignoring the other part of what I said. The police themselves are rarely if ever going to have to pay their legal fees or for any court judgment against them. Only the cities will pay. Hence, ending qualified immunity will not be a disincentive to police criminality.
You know what is sad about what you said! Our here on the central Coast Congressman Panetta has been having telephone meetings on this subject and not one time has your concerns been addressed! I asked his office why?
His response was very telling -- It will be hard enough to get the Republicans to support the Democratic Bill !! We need to take very small steps with an agenda that migh take several years to finally get to that point! We expect the Republicans to fight tooth and nail against any real reform!
 

TheVrolok

Lifer
Dec 11, 2000
23,254
2,519
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Qualified immunity is probably more important today than it was in 1967, with the cop hate climate out there. If officers can't be protected against malicious lawsuits, then what protects them? Most LEOs are good. A handful are bad. I suppose they could carry some kind of liability insurance, but like medical malpractice insurance, it would be pretty expensive, if such coverage exists. When the risks become too high, personally, few will want to become cops. What do we do then, who will protect us? Citizens become policing militias? Vigilantes? I don't think I like the alternatives.
If that becomes the sticking point of passing any reform bill, we'll just end up with the status quo.
Maybe we should worry about the current significant problems qualified immunity is enabling, rather than speculate?
 
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woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
11,826
6,277
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You know what is sad about what you said! Our here on the central Coast Congressman Panetta has been having telephone meetings on this subject and not one time has your concerns been addressed! I asked his office why?
His response was very telling -- It will be hard enough to get the Republicans to support the Democratic Bill !! We need to take very small steps with an agenda that migh take several years to finally get to that point! We expect the Republicans to fight tooth and nail against any real reform!
I think they're trying to pass something which makes people feel good and won't actually help. People think ending qualified immunity will make the bad cops pay, but they don't understand that it actually will not.

If police reform is going to work, it needs to be the right kind, not just something that makes people feel good during a period of elevated concern.
 
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JEDIYoda

Lifer
Jul 13, 2005
33,269
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I think they're trying to pass something which makes people feel good and won't actually help. People think ending qualified immunity will make the bad cops pay, but they don't understand that it actually will not.

If police reform is going to work, it needs to be the right kind, not just something that makes people feel good during a period of elevated concern.
We are in agreement! Thanks for your insights!!
 

Lost_in_the_HTTP

Senior member
Nov 17, 2019
954
389
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That's part of my reasoning with wanting to get unions on the hook. You know they won't continue to defend bad officers that cost them real money.
 

woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
11,826
6,277
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That's part of my reasoning with wanting to get unions on the hook. You know they won't continue to defend bad officers that cost them real money.
So you want the liability of the officer to run to the union? That's probably going to be a non-starter, for many reasons.
 

JEDIYoda

Lifer
Jul 13, 2005
33,269
2,971
126
That's part of my reasoning with wanting to get unions on the hook. You know they won't continue to defend bad officers that cost them real money.
That is going to be hard to do.....I will give you one reason....Nobody will touch that with a 10 ft pole! Because if the Democrats touch that then the Unions will vote Republican and visa verse!
That is right! But before any of this happens you must have both Democrats and Republicans willing to do something besides just talk.....
 

zinfamous

No Lifer
Jul 12, 2006
103,512
18,067
136
Qualified immunity is probably more important today than it was in 1967, with the cop hate climate out there. If officers can't be protected against malicious lawsuits, then what protects them? Most LEOs are good. A handful are bad. I suppose they could carry some kind of liability insurance, but like medical malpractice insurance, it would be pretty expensive, if such coverage exists. When the risks become too high, personally, few will want to become cops. What do we do then, who will protect us? Citizens become policing militias? Vigilantes? I don't think I like the alternatives.
If that becomes the sticking point of passing any reform bill, we'll just end up with the status quo.
it's like all the cop hate is totally coming out of nowhere, right?
 
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JEDIYoda

Lifer
Jul 13, 2005
33,269
2,971
126
Qualified immunity is probably more important today than it was in 1967, with the cop hate climate out there. If officers can't be protected against malicious lawsuits, then what protects them? Most LEOs are good. A handful are bad. I suppose they could carry some kind of liability insurance, but like medical malpractice insurance, it would be pretty expensive, if such coverage exists. When the risks become too high, personally, few will want to become cops. What do we do then, who will protect us? Citizens become policing militias? Vigilantes? I don't think I like the alternatives.
If that becomes the sticking point of passing any reform bill, we'll just end up with the status quo.
oh boo hoo!! We need to protect our cops! We need to let them snatch cameras of people recording them! We need to allow them to use no knock warrants to kill innocent people!
We need to allow them to enter your house with a search warrant and destroy your home and then say whoops wrong house....and the list goes on.....
 

woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
11,826
6,277
136
Sure, but those constructive ways will be other kinds of reform besides ending qualified immunity.
 

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