Clarence Thomas slams qualified immunity (QI). As Forbes reports, Justice Thomas wants the Supreme Court to “reconsider” QI. In fact, Clarence Thomas is a notable critic of the controversial doctrine. And he’s one of the most conservative judges on the nation’s highest court.
Nick Sibilla from the Institute for Justice (IJ) wrote the Forbes piece. Indeed, Sibilla and IJ are also against the unjust rule. Furthermore, they are coalition partners of the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity.
IJ’s Sibilla notes that the call to end QI is “vital” in the police reform movement. However, QI does not only apply to bad cops. “Qualified immunity extends far beyond police officers,” Sibilla writes in Forbes. The doctrine applies to all public officials. For example, FBI agents and Drug Enforcement Administration agents. Another group that QI shields: college officials.
A recent case involving college officials prompted Justice Thomas to speak out against QI. The case is Hoggard v. Rhodes. Per Sibilla in Forbes, Arkansas State University officials violated student Ashlyn Hoggard’s First Amendment rights. The officials blocked Hoggard from promoting a student organization on campus. Hoggard sued, claiming censorship.
However, a court ruled against Hoggard. Ultimately, the court granted the officials QI. Although the Supreme Court declined to overturn the lower court’s decision, not all justices agreed with their ruling. In particular, Clarence Thomas.
Justice Thomas felt that QI was an “odd fit” in Ashlyn Hoggard’s case. “Why should university officers…receive the same protection as a police officer who makes a split-second decision to use force in a dangerous setting?” Justice Thomas pondered.
As Nick Sibillia states in Forbes, Justice Thomas’s opinion “is a potent reminder that qualified immunity is not limited to cops.” Which is why it’s necessary to repeal the doctrine for all officials who violate someone’s individual rights, not just law enforcement.
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