The Lunacy of Qualified Immunity
The legal doctrine of qualified immunity is a legalized adoption of this tenet as applied to public servants who commit a wrongful act during their official duties.
They are shielded from civil liability unless the plaintiff can prove the official had no notice that the act they were performing violated one or more constitutional rights that had been clearly established as a violation by a court, statute, law or policy adopted by their employing agency.
Basic moral societal behavior should be taught to all people beginning at a young age, starting with parents and reinforced by schoolteachers. These are things such as not stealing property from others and not lying. These are societal norms that should not have to be deemed wrong in specific circumstances by courts, legislatures or employing agencies, yet they are anyway.
A good example of qualified immunity lunacy involved two Fresno, California, police officers executing a search warrant in 2013.
During the search, they allegedly stole over $225,000 worth of items from the property they were searching. The owners were legally estopped from suing them in a unanimous 9th Circuit U.S. Circuit Appeal Court panel that ruled “the officers did not have clear notice that it [the theft] violated the [Constitution’s] Fourth Amendment.”
Another example is Georgia sheriff’s deputy Matthew Vickers. He was pursuing a fleeing suspect in 2014 when he stopped to shoot a pit bull named Bruce, who was not threatening anyone. Vickers missed the dog but hit a 10-year-old boy who still requires care from a surgeon. The child’s parents were legally estopped from suing Vickers under the qualified immunity doctrine. While acknowledging the innocent child Vickers shot has “suffered severe pain and mental trauma” the court shielded Vickers.
The boy’s mother Amy “Corbitt failed to present us with any materially similar case from the United States Supreme Court, this Court or the Supreme Court of Georgia that would have given Vickers fair warning that his particular conduct violated the [Constitution’s] Fourth Amendment,” opined the panel.
It appears that a qualified immunity defense trumps common sense every time a cop pulls some dangerous stunt, like shooting an innocent child, for instance.