312 online
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 33 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds   

"Qualified Immunity" Strikes Again

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   No comments

Thomas Knapp
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Thomas Knapp

Panorama of United States Supreme Court Building at Dusk.
Panorama of United States Supreme Court Building at Dusk.
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: Joe Ravi)
  Details   Source   DMCA

Over the last few decades, we've seen numerous bad actors escape punishment for their bad acts -- ranging from theft to sexual misconduct to summary execution -- for no better reason than that they were government employees, under the doctrine of "qualified immunity."

Now the US Supreme Court appears to have dropped the "qualified" part in favor of just plain immunity, full stop.

On February 21, the court rejected an appeal from Anthony Novak, who was arrested and jailed for four days in 2016, before being acquitted on a charge of "disruption of police operations."

Novak subsequently sued for damages, and his case seemed airtight: The supposed "disruption" consisted of a Facebook page parodying the Parma, Ohio police department.

The "qualification" for immunity claims, per the Supreme Court's 1982 ruling in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, is that a government employee's conduct must not "not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known."

Like, for example, the rights to free speech and freedom of the press enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

A "reasonable person" -- in particular a "reasonable cop" from Ohio, where high school students must complete a semester of coursework on "US government," and where police officers are required by law to swear or affirm that they will "support the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America" -- couldn't have missed knowing about those clearly established constitutional rights.

Parma police officers Kevin Riley and Thomas Connor had no plausible claim of confusion as to whether they were violating Anthony Novak's rights when they arrested him for saying things they didn't like.

The immunity they've been granted first by a federal judge, then by the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals, and now by the US Supreme Court, isn't "qualified." It's just a free pass for people with badges.

Come to think of it, why should such people receive any immunity at all, "qualified" or otherwise, for committing crimes?

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, right? I'm sure I've heard that somewhere. "But Your Honor, how was I to know bank robbery was illegal?" won't likely bring a judge down on your side of things.

The people who make their livings enforcing the laws should be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard -- and certainly shouldn't be allowed to play a get out of jail free card -- when they violate those laws.

Rate It | View Ratings

Thomas Knapp Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

2020: I'm So Sick of Superlatives

America Doesn't Have Presidential Debates, But It Should

Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Agreed with Ocasio-Cortez Until About One Minute Ago

Chickenhawk Donald: A Complete and Total Disgrace

The Nunes Memo Only Partially "Vindicates" Trump, But it Fully Indicts the FBI and the FISA Court

Finally, Evidence of Russian Election Meddling ... Oh, Wait

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend