Joyce Vance examines qualified immunity (QI) in an MSNBC op-ed. Vance is a legal analyst. In addition, she’s a University of Alabama School of Law professor. Furthermore, she is a former U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama. Like many other law professors, Joyce Vance is a QI critic.
Her piece focuses on the Ahmaud Arbery murder verdict. As Joyce Vance writes, “the justice done was very real.” But, she also notes that “casting a wider lens, it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that our system doesn’t always achieve justice.” For example, qualified immunity still exists. Thus, “there is still so much work to be done.”
Like other advocates, Vance voices her frustration at the federal government. Particularly, for failing to act on QI. “Congress…hasn’t passed the [George Floyd Justice in Policing Act],” she writes. Unfortunately, the act stalled in the Senate. What’s more, the bill would’ve ended QI for rogue cops. Reforming QI is “essential if we are going to advance our criminal justice system.”
Joyce Vance also knows that the call to end QI is not anti-police. Rather, it’s pro–public safety. In fact, she acknowledges that “it’s important to give officers who are doing dangerous jobs in a responsible fashion the protection they deserve.” However, “such protection shouldn’t be extended to those who believe a gun and a badge gives them the right” to violate people’s rights.
“The broad nature of qualified immunity protects law enforcement from accountability for conduct we all know is wrong,” Joyce Vance writes. “This has to be fixed.”
Only through creating a system that upholds accountability can we achieve true justice. “As a former prosecutor,” Joyce Vance concludes, “I feel…[we] have an obligation to…relentlessly insist on and work towards criminal justice reform.”
Ending qualified immunity is instrumental to that crucial work.
Read Joyce Vance’s entire MSNBC op-ed here.