Patrick Jaicomo and Chad Reese Clear the Air on QI

Patrick Jaicomo and Chad Reese clear the air on qualified immunity (QI). Specifically, in a Washington Post op-ed. Jaicomo and Reese work for the Institute for Justice (IJ). IJ is a coalition partner of the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity. 

In their piece, Patrick Jaicomo and Chad Reese address qualified immunity. They do so following Virginia’s recent gubernatorial debate. As it happens, the controversial doctrine was a topic of discussion. Furthermore, Jaicomo and Reese thought both candidates did a poor job describing QI. In fact, they feel the candidates “mischaracterized” the court-created rule.

“Virginians deserve an open and honest conversation about qualified immunity,” Patrick Jaicomo and Chad Reese wrote. “But that’s not what they heard from either candidate.” Thus, the purpose of their op-ed is to set the record straight. Particularly, for Virginia voters. 

Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates are Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin. McAuliffe is a Democrat. Youngkin is a Republican. Not surprisingly, both took “slightly different positions on the issue.” However, neither’s position proved satisfactory. Not for Patrick Jaicomo and Chad Reese. 

First, the legal scholars criticize Glenn Youngkin’s stand. As they note, the Republican claims QI offers necessary protections for law enforcement. Specifically, he says QI protects cops from “frivolous lawsuits.” 

Patrick Jaicomo and Chad Reese disagree with Youngkin. “Quite the opposite,” they state. “Qualified immunity only thwarts meritorious lawsuits—the important ones.”  

The duo elaborates: “If a case is easily dismissed as frivolous, meaning that it lacks a basis in fact or law, it can be dismissed under a variety of court rules that were designed to weed out those kinds of lawsuits.” Bottom line: “Qualified immunity prevents the good cases, not the bad ones.” (Other experts have already debunked the “frivolous lawsuits” claim.)

Next, Patrick Jaicomo and Chad Reese zero in on Terry McAuliffe. In response to Youngkin’s statement, the Democrat said that ““any officer acting in good faith should and will have the full protections of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” 

But Jaicomo and Reese believe this is an “incorrect” statement. Qualified immunity, they explain, “doesn’t consider a government worker’s good-faith intentions. On the contrary, courts cannot factor in a worker’s intentions.” 

The Constitution, the writers indicate, prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures.” In turn, this language “already leaves plenty of latitude for good-faith mistakes.” Thus, QI “actually prevents courts from deciding whether an officer acted reasonably or violated the Constitution.”

“Regardless of who wins next month’s election,” Patrick Jaicomo and Chad Reese conclude, “Virginians deserve a governor who understands what’s at stake.” As they point out, QI “does not protect good-faith actors…from frivolous lawsuits.” Instead, qualified immunity “shields all government officials from accountability…even when they knowingly…violate our rights.”

Read Patrick Jaicomo and Chad Reese’s entire op-ed here.