IJ Fights QI in New Hampshire

In a new Concord Monitor op-ed, the Institute for Justice (IJ) announces that it’s working with New Hampshire lawmakers to draft a 2023 bill to end qualified immunity (QI) in the Granite State. 

“As hard as it is to get justice in federal courts, it is the only current option for Granite Staters,” say the piece’s writers, IJ’s Keith Neely and Patrick Jaicomo and state representatives Paul Berch and Tony Lekas. “New Hampshire is one of 27 states that don’t allow victims to sue the officials who violated their rights in state courts, which are easier and more accessible than their federal counterparts.”

Hoping to change this, IJ and the reps are “preparing legislation for next year that would ensure Granite Staters harmed by government officials have their day in state court.” Although the bill’s details are not yet finalized, its goal is clear: to “authorize civil rights lawsuits in state court and prohibit government officers and agencies from invoking qualified immunity and other judge-made doctrines.” The bill will be similar to the QI-busting legislation successfully enacted in Colorado, New Mexico, and New York City over the past two years.

In spring 2021, Rep. Berch introduced Senate Bill 96, which aimed to end QI for all government actors in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, that bill didn’t pass. However, with the recent onslaught of Supreme Court rulings weakening federal accountability, many local lawmakers are reinvigorated to strengthen public safety within their state borders. 

“After all, the New Hampshire Constitution guarantees that [e]very subject of this State is entitled to a certain remedy, by having recourse of the laws, for all injuries he may receive,” remind the op-ed’s authors. Qualified immunity, they conclude, “hasn’t worked for our citizens. Let’s go back to what the people of our state put in our constitution in 1784.”

Read the entire op-ed here.