AN ANTIQUATED LEGAL DOCTRINE SORELY IN NEED OF REFORM
Even after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, the U.S. Supreme Court fails to take on Qualified Immunity; Government officials are shielded from liability while government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" – the very people whose rights are to be protected under the Bill of Rights – are deprived of those rights and are unable to hold government accountable.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN, June 17, 2020 – Robert R. Hopper is an attorney who represents the Anderson family in William Anderson vs. City of Minneapolis, et al. The case was filed as a civil rights action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and dismissed under qualified immunity. Mr. Hopper’s client appealed to the Eighth Circuit, which also granted immunity to 911 first responders who prematurely declared Mr. Anderson’s 19‐year‐old son, Jake, dead of hypothermia, in violation of their own emergency protocols, thereby depriving him of his 14th Amendment right to life and what could have been life‐saving medical assistance. Expert opinion in the case from forensic evidence shows that Jake was likely still alive when he was taken to the morgue. Mr. Hopper filed a cert petition in the U.S. Supreme Court on November 18, 2019, asking the Court to find that qualified immunity should not attach, as well as to clarify the standards for determining “clearly established law,” especially in the context of the state‐created danger doctrine. There were several other qualified immunity cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this term that were also denied certiorari.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to deny certiorari on every qualified immunity case it considered is a disheartening and appalling decision that has very timely and significant ramifications for our country, and in the case of Jake Anderson it created a grave injustice by allowing emergency responders to get away with callously leaving Jake out in the cold rather than taking him to the local emergency department, located only 5 minutes away, to be rewarmed. Such government conduct is shocking; yet the government is literally getting away with murder because of qualified immunity.
As many people know, under current legal precedent, the government, including the police, can use qualified immunity as a defense to shield itself from all liability. Government officials may even be granted qualified immunity early in a case, preventing the case from ever going to trial, even before any discovery has begun. In short, this has created a constitutional crisis in our country because it is nearly impossible to hold government accountable for its tortious or criminal conduct – often heinous and egregious – such as in the use of excessive (and indefensible) force against George Floyd, causing his death. This circumstance has created a historical inflection point requiring serious reconsideration for reform by the judiciary, Congress, and policy makers at all levels of government, as effectively, our fundamental rights found in the U.S. Constitution, and specifically in the Bill of Rights have been made impotent. A government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is quickly vanishing, as power has so gravely shifted in favor of the government that we as citizens can no longer enforce our constitutional rights against it. Qualified immunity is overly broad, causing a litigant to face too many obstacles when fighting government officials in court. The U.S. cannot wait any longer to reform such an antiquated legal doctrine.