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Friday, May 30, 2014

Courts - "SCOTUS Upholds Law Enforcement's Qualified Immunity"

The NPR Nina Totenberg story from Tuesday reports:

In two decisions handed down Tuesday, the Supreme Court made it more difficult for citizens to sue law enforcement officers for their conduct. Both decisions were unanimous.

The central issue in both was the doctrine of "qualified immunity," which shields public officials from being sued for actions that fall short of violating a clearly established statutory or constitutional right.

Lyle Denniston wrote this post about one of the two cases; he begins:
Expanding the authority of police to use deadly force to stop a high-speed chase on streets and highways, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police may start shooting at the fleeing vehicle and keep on shooting until they are satisfied that the threat to safety is at an end. The ruling had mostly unanimous support, but two of the nine Justices had qualms about the number and sequence of shots fired in this particular case.

The decision in Plumhoff v. Rickard grew out of a chase ten years ago that crossed a state line from Arkansas into Tennessee, and continued even after police had appeared to have the fleeing car cornered on the streets of Memphis. At that point, as the driver still tried to get away, the police opened fire, and kept shooting as the car sped away and then crashed, with both the driver and a passenger killed.

The action of police throughout, the Court ruled, did not violate the constitutional rights of the driver. The lawsuit was filed by the driver’s daughter. The Court did not rule on whether the estate or relatives of the dead passenger might have a constitutional claim.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 30, 2014 08:37 AM
Posted to Courts in general