Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Courts find that police officers do not have immunity in two recent cases

As you probably know, police officers often escape possible tort liability because they claim to have qualified immunity.  According to the doctrine of qualified immunity, officials performing discretionary functions have immunity as long as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights or which a reasonable person would have known.

The use of qualified immunity in cases involving alleged police misconduct has been increasingly criticized of late, and two courts recently decided that the officers involved did not have immunity for their actions.

In one case, the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit unanimously ruled that an Alabama police officer is not entitled to immunity for an incident in which he repeatedly deployed a Taser on an innocent teenager who was having seizures at a concert.  You can read about that case here.

In the other case, the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that the defendant did not have immunity in a case in which the plaintiff alleged that the officer punched a suspect in the face, whipped him with a chain, and released a police dog on him.  Evidently, the Court felt that a reasonable officer should know that that type of conduct violates someone's rights.  You can read about that case here.

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