As individual nations continue to take action to get rid of qualified immunity for police officers who commit unconstitutional actions, the Biden government has taken a different stance regarding the highly controversial law enforcement defense tool.
From the very first Supreme Court amicus brief filed by the government late last month, the Office of the Solicitor General argued in favor of accepting a broad approach to applying qualified immunity at a Fourth Amendment controversy between warrantless search and seizures.
The case, Caniglia v. Strom, began with a 2015 nationwide debate between Edward Caniglia along with his spouse. Caniglia brandished an unloaded gun. His wife requested a wellness check from the authorities who ascertained Caniglia presented an imminent danger to the community and he check himself into a hospital. He complied, but police then entered the home and seized all his ammunition and firearms. Caniglia resisted the officers involved, asserting the seizure violated the Fourth Amendment, but a district court and the First Circuit equally discovered that the officers’ activities fell under the Fourth Amendment’s”community caretaker” exclusion, reasoning that the officers did not exceed the range of their responsibilities to take care of the community despite the warrantless search and seizure.
In the Justice Department’s Feb. 18 amicus brief, the government argued that the lower court rulings must be maintained, but argued in the alternative that the officers must also be protected under the doctrine of qualified immunity.
Qualified immunity is a legal philosophy initially made by this Supreme Court which has steadily developed to prevent citizens from holding government actors accountable for constitutional violations enshrined in the Civil Rights Act’s §1983.
The modern doctrine maintains that qualified immunity”shields state and federal officials from money damages unless a plaintiff pleads facts demonstrating (1) the official violated a constitutional right, and (2) that the right was’clearly established’ at the time of the challenged conduct.”
In order for such a right to be”clearly established,” however, the specific conduct of the alleged violator(s) must have been established — occasionally meaning an earlier case involving virtually the specific same set of facts to such an extent as to set the constitutional question beyond disagreement. This is a subjective and frequently overly large bar for plaintiffs to clear.
“If any uncertainty exists about the reasonableness of the respondent officers’ actions,” the government wrote,”this Court should affirm on the alternative ground that the officers are entitled to qualified immunity”
“No such clearly recognized law abiding that the respondent officers from entering petitioner’s home to tackle a suicide threat that, under all the circumstances, was unique, plausible, and fairly imminent. Indeed, as mentioned, each court of appeals to have evaluated the constitutionality of similar authorities actions has determined that the activity does not violate the Fourth Amendment.”
In a statement to The Intercept, Pressley explained the philosophy”for too long has protected law enforcement from accountability and denied refuge for the many families robbed of their loved ones.”
“There can be no justice without healing and liability, and there can be no authentic responsibility with qualified immunity,” she added.