Supreme Court is faulted for shielding police officers from excessive-force claims

U.S. 2020/6/4

Supreme Court is faulted for shielding police officers from excessive-force claims

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The Supreme Court building in Washington. (AFP/Getty Images)

Amid nationwide protests over police killings, the Supreme Court is facing pressure to reconsider the legal immunity that often shields officers from being sued for using excessive force, including brutal arrests and the shooting of innocent people in their homes.

The high court has been sharply criticized from the left and the right for rulings in the last decade that have made it nearly impossible for many victims of police brutality or wrongful shootings to sue the officers for violating their rights. Since police officers are rarely charged with a crime, the court-created doctrine of "qualified immunity" from civil lawsuits has meant no redress for victims and little accountability for those who abuse their authority, according to the critics.

In recent weeks, justices have been considering several appeals from victims urging the court to reverse course and allow these claims to go before a jury.

Lawyers behind the appeals say the images of a Minneapolis police officer pressing his knee onto the neck of unarmed black man who is handcuffed and grasping for breath should weigh on the justices.

"It makes for grim coincidence," said Jay Schweikert, a lawyer for the Cato Institute, which has waged a campaign against police immunity. "The senseless violence committed by [police officer] Derek Chauvin — and the stunning indifference of the officers standing by as George Floyd begged for his life— is the product of our culture of near

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