Legal scholars are against qualified immunity (QI). Case in point, attorney Brooke Barnett and National Police Accountability Project Legal Director Lauren Bonds. They are the latest experts calling out the murky doctrine. On August 9, the duo wrote an op-ed on QI for NJ.com. In their piece, they demand real reform.
“We cannot achieve meaningful criminal justice reform without ending qualified immunity,” legal scholars Barnett and Bonds write. Furthermore, they say repealing the rule has many benefits. First, ending QI will rebuild our system. Second, it will restore the public’s trust in law enforcement. Third, it will open a pathway to justice for victims of police violence.
Victims like New Jersey resident Hamid Harris. In their op-ed, the legal scholars share Harris’ heart-wrenching story.
Hamid Harris “was the victim of conspiracy and malicious prosecution.” Specifically, corrupt cops falsely imprisoned him for over two months. These bad actors violated Harris’ civil rights. They nearly ruined his life. In response, Harris sued. However, his case languishes. “The Newark Police Department…continue[s] to hide behind qualified immunity,” the legal scholars indicate.
Brooke Barnett and Lauren Bonds write that QI “communicates to police officers that they are above the law.” Thus, these legal scholars want to send a different message. In their NJ.com op-ed, they call on national legislators to take action. In particular, Senator Cory Booker. Furthermore, they urge him to “keep up the efforts” to end QI. Senator Booker belongs to a bipartisan commission. This commission works toward finalizing federal police-reform legislation.
Still, federal efforts to pass police reform are at a standstill. However, state-wide measures move forward. In fact, New Jersey is one of these states targeting QI.
Recently, Garden State lawmakers introduced S-3730. This bill aims to end QI for bad cops in New Jersey. If passed, S-3730 would allow victims of police misconduct to seek justice. Meaning, folks such as Hamid Harris could finally have their day in state civil court.
“We need officers invested in respecting people’s constitutional rights,” legal scholars Barnett and Bonds say in their op-ed. “That will only happen if qualified immunity is eliminated.”
So, with S-3730, New Jersey has a chance to accomplish just that.
Read the entire op-ed from the legal scholars against QI here.