On Monday, a federal judge granted qualified immunity (QI) to former Attorney General William Barr. As The Hill reports, Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists sued William Barr over his actions during a protest outside the White House. They sued other officials, too. The demonstration happened on June 1, 2020. It resulted in police using excessive force against the protestors. According to the lawsuit, this violated the protesters’ First Amendment rights.
Still, District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich sided with Barr and the other officials named in the suit. Per The Hill, Judge Friedrich “ruled that the protesters’ allegations were not sufficient to overcome the significant legal protections afforded to federal officials.” Thus, the federal judge granted QI to former Attorney General William Barr and the other officials.
In response, the ACLU released a statement. Scott Michelman wrote this statement. Michelman is legal director of the ACLU’s Washington, D.C., chapter. The ACLU represented BLM in their suit.
In his statement, the ACLU’s Scott Michelman said Judge Friedrich’s decision was a “stunning rejection” of the protestors’ First Amendment rights. The judge’s decision, the ACLU’s statement concludes, “effectively places federal officials above the law.”
Despite this setback, there is a silver lining. Although Judge Friedrich granted QI to William Barr, she also ruled that parts of the lawsuit could proceed. These include claims against the local law enforcement officers themselves.
Judge Friedrich wrote: “Any reasonable officer would have been aware that it is a violation of foundational First Amendment rights to forcibly end a peaceful protest in a traditional public forum without any legitimate justification for doing so.”
These claims, The Hill notes, are “sufficient to overcome those officers’ qualified immunity protections.”
BLM’s lawsuit against former Attorney General William Barr and other officials highlights the need to end qualified immunity across the board. Currently, the provision to abolish the doctrine featured in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act targets bad cops. Another bill, the Ending Qualified Immunity Act, aims to end QI for all federal officials engaged in misconduct.
Read the entire article on a federal judge granting QI to William Barr and other officials here.