Senate Republican bucks party and president on law enforcement immunity
A Republican has presented a bill that he hopes could serve as a tool for bipartisan change as police reform is about to collapse amidst guerrilla accusations in the Senate.
Senator Mike Braun, a newly minted Republican from Indiana, released a bill Tuesday that he said attempts to contain a legal protective shield for police officers called "qualified immunity." It is almost impossible for police officers to violate civil rights to be held accountable.
Qualified immunity, introduced by the Supreme Court in the 1980s, requires each applicant to refer to a "clearly defined law" - meaning that it is a nearly identical previous case - in order to show a clear precedent for it that the alleged behavior of an official was illegal.
MORE: Police reform bill likely to die in the Senate
Braun's legislation would remove the requirement of the "clearly defined law" and replace it with a language that states that "a defendant who has been sued in his or her individual capacity ... is not liable if the accused finds that at the time of the withdrawal According to the legal text, the allegedly illegal behavior was expressly approved or prescribed by federal law or ordinance "or by state law".
"The calculation will not be based on the fact that 'it must be so clearly stated that you were immune if you knew nothing about it' or 'there was no specific incident that you could relate to'. This will mean that the only way you are immune is that there is a federal or state law or court ruling that says what you did is legal, so that brings more clarity, ”said Braun in one Interview with ABC News.
Critics of qualified immunity say the shield makes it almost impossible for those who feel wrong to claim compensation.
PHOTO: Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in a picture from the video during George Floyd's arrest on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis. (Darnella Frazier via AFP / Getty Images)
Lee Merritt, lawyer for George Floyd, whose death in police custody provoked national outrage and called for police reform, recently told senators that qualified immunity is a protective shield that law enforcement officers can almost always use to avoid civil penalties
"Qualified immunity has been expanded by our current judiciary to be almost absolute immunity," Merritt told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It has gotten out of control and it is almost impossible for me to do my job as a representative of these families if it persists. Other senior lawyers have advised me to get out of the business if qualified immunity persists."
Braun said he believed his legislation would result in victims winning more lawsuits against law enforcement officers.
MORE: The Supreme Court will not recheck the police's qualified immunity and leave it to Congress
However, a legal expert said that the legislation could have the opposite effect.
"The proposal (by Braun) is not just about whether an official can refer to local or state law that" authorizes "his behavior (which is far from being as clear as his comments suggest - e.g. A provision authorizing the use of violence to carry out an arrest and whether or not it permits violence that a court deems excessive but the official does not), but there are some contexts in which this proposal could even extend immunity by An official is isolated from liability, even if it is. It is clear that what he has done is unconstitutional, "wrote Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas Law School, in a statement to ABC News .
As an example, Vladeck said: "Any case where the unconstitutional behavior was compatible with a local or state rule."
"This may be a little better compared to nothing - but not much in my opinion," added Vladeck.
PHOTO: Senator Mike Braun speaks during a Senate hearing in Washington on January 8, 2020. (Barcroft Media via Getty Images, FILE)
Braun, a former businessman and Harvard MBA graduate, is an unlikely candidate for his party and the delicate issue of qualified immunity.
Typically a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, Braun has decided to stand up against his party, and ABC News has said he fears that if Republicans don't accept this kind of change, they could face violent backlash.
"In my view, in the long run, if you don't find anything that is a framework - other than what we have - you lose because I don't know how long a company can move in the direction of more George Floyds, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylors, "Braun told ABC News, referring to a number of cases in which African Americans died in questionable circumstances by police officers.
"We don't want to be on our side to defend such incidents because we are unwilling to bow to immunity at all, so being here is a difficult situation," said Braun.
MORE: "Qualified Immunity" for the police force, which receives a new look from the Supreme Court after George Floyd's death
Still, the vast majority of Republicans have expressed their opposition to a change in qualified immunity, including Trump, who has described the removal of the shield as "non-starters" as the Democrats try.
"Imagine you are thinking of becoming a cop and you think you are personally responsible for any quarrel you try to solve. Some think that under these circumstances you will not become a cop. Others think you are just fine in the police car and never get out because you could end up being sued, "Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday, pointing out that the proposal has met with vigorous opposition.
But Braun said he was still optimistic that his party would continue to develop. The senator compared the possible shift to Republican development with the now rock-solid guarantee that any health insurance plan must protect Americans with pre-existing health conditions, which the GOP once rejected.
"If you don't do this and say that clearly, you still have the albatross around your neck to defend your position earlier, and I think that's the same thing here," said Braun. "I think President Trump is on the right side to ensure that law enforcement is not hindered for a difficult job. And if there were clean legislation that would do what I was talking about - accountability in these immense ones Considering issues and not hindering you with these frivolous lawsuits - he might consider it. "
Republican Senate dollar party and law enforcement president originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
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