Institute for Justice Pens Op-Ed on QI

On June 9, the Institute for Justice published an op-ed in The Hill on federal police and qualified immunity (QI). Patrick Jaicomo and Anya Bidwell from the Institute for Justice (IJ) penned this piece. IJ is a coalition partner of the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity.

Patrick Jaicomo and Anya Bidwell’s op-ed zeros in on federal police and QI. As Jaicomo and Bidwell note in The Hill, “much work [has been] done” to address the unjust doctrine that shields bad cops from accountability. However “one group has been conspicuously omitted” from the conversation.

That group is federal police. 

As IJ’s Patrick Jaicomo and Anya Bidwell indicate, FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and Department of Veterans Affairs employees can fall under the category of “federal police.” 

Due to special protections, these actors “cannot be sued in state courts or a growing number of federal courts.” In their op-ed for The Hill, Jaicomo and Bidwell bring up two cases that focus on “a system of unaccountability that allows federal police to operate in constitution-free zones.” 

The Case History of QI and Federal Agents

The first case, Byrd v. Lamb, concerns a Department of Homeland Security agent’s use of excessive force. The second, Boule v. Egbert, involves a Customs and Border Protection agent accused of abusing their authority.  In the former case, the court dismissed the case because the agent “carried a federal badge.” In the latter, “the court allowed the case to proceed.”

“At the core of the dispute over whether federal officials can be held accountable,” IJ’s Patrtick Jaicomo and Anya Bidwell write, “is the fact that Congress has passed a statute that explicitly permits remedies against state and local officials.” But, the legal scholars note, this is not the case with federal officials. “Congress never has passed a similar statute allowing federal officials to be sued.” Thus, federal police are not only entitled to QI, but they “often have absolute immunity as well.” 

Patrick Jaicomo and Anya Bidwell believe that every public official must face accountability if they violate someone’s Constitutional rights. Bad cops don’t deserve unfair protections like qualified immunity. Nor do prison guards, FBI agents, and border patrol staff. A just society holds everyone to the same standard. “A federal badge,” IJ’s Jaicomo and Bidwell conclude, ”is not a shield against the Constitution.” 

Read the entire Institute for Justice op-ed on federal police and QI here.