The opponents of qualified immunity have made a persuasive argument that the doctrine is utterly without legal or historical justification, that it is impossible to apply with the consistency or predictability that generally warrant respect for precedent in the first place, and that is actively corrupting what would otherwise be the best means we have of ensuring accountability for government agents.
Without even deciding the constitutional question, a majority of the Eleventh Circuit panel granted qualified immunity to Vickers, simply because there was no case on point with this particular set of facts.
Preserving the possibility that juries may, in appropriate cases, be informed about the consequences of conviction is a small but vital safeguard against the wholesale erosion of the jury trial itself.
This brief is part of Cato’s ongoing campaign to challenge qualified immunity — a doctrine that lacks any legal basis, vitiates the power of individuals to vindicate their constitutional rights, and contributes to a culture of near-zero accountability for law enforcement and other public officials.
On the whole, Justice Gorsuch's opinion in this case is an encouraging sign that he's aware of and attuned to this set of concerns. Hopefully the newest member of the Court will continue to apply this level of exacting review to vague and arbitrary statutes across the board.
There is no panacea for the jury’s diminishing role in our criminal justice system, but the least that states can do is not exacerbate the situation by singling out for punishment protected speech meant to inform jurors of their rights, obligations, and historical role as the conscience of the community.
The qualified immunity doctrine lacks any legal basis, vitiates the power of individuals to vindicate their constitutional rights, and contributes to a culture of near-zero accountability for law enforcement and other public officials.