The Supreme Court on Monday granted police officers qualified immunity from civil lawsuits, striking down lower court rulings, Reuters reports.
The court overturned a circuit court decision allowing a trial in a lawsuit against two Oklahoma officers accused of fatally shooting a man wielding a hammer. The court also overturned another court’s decision denying a California officer’s request for qualified immunity in a lawsuit accusing him of excessive force.
Both rulings were unsigned but the court did not issue any public dissents. There were no oral arguments in the two cases.
Stronger protections for cops:
Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects officers from civil lawsuits stemming from incidents that happened while they were on duty.
The Supreme Court ruling in the Oklahoma case said that a suspect must show that an officer violated “clearly established law” to move forward with a lawsuit.
The court’s ruling in the California case similarly said that the officers “plainly did not violate any clearly established law.”
Democrats look to change law:
Democrats last year introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would among other things restrict qualified immunity for officers accused of excessive force.
The bill passed the House but did not advance to the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans at the time.
Democrats pushed earlier this year to reach a bipartisan agreement on a police reform bill to overcome a Republican filibuster but talks fizzled over the summer after Republicans refused to budge on Democratic demands to limit qualified immunity.