Raffi Melkonian speaks out against qualified immunity (QI). On November 23, USA Today published an op-ed. Raffi Melkonian wrote the piece. Melkonian is a Houston-based attorney. Furthermore, like many legal scholars, he’s a QI critic.
Suing bad cops and other rogue public officials is nearly impossible. That’s because “qualified immunity upends the usual process and can stall cases for years,” notes Raffi Melkonian in USA Today. This is not only frustrating for the victims of violent actors, but also unjust.
Typically, if a plaintiff wins their case, the defendant gets one chance to appeal. This is not an easy process. In fact, it can be tedious. Still, as Raffi Melkonian remarks, it’s a “linear” process. However, things are different when an everyday citizen sues a government official. That’s when the process “gets upended.”
Simply put, qualified immunity complicates the process. The doctrine “offers startling procedural benefits to government defendants.” And by “startling,” Raffi Melkonian means “unethical.”
“Police officers get an incredible three bites at the appellate apple when most defendants get only one,” Melkonian points out. Not just that, but cops “only need to win once to escape liability.” On the other hand, “the plaintiff must run the table by winning every single one of the three appeals.”
Worst still, qualified immunity has no real Constitutional basis. In other words, the doctrine was created out of whole cloth. As a legal expert, Raffi Melkonian knows this is wrong. As he points out, the Supreme Court “simply held that police officers and other government agents have a special exception to the normal rule that there is only one appeal in a case.”
This is an “unfair” exception, says Raffi Melkonian. Instead of protecting good cops from unnecessary litigation, QI has amplified our public safety crisis. Over the years, the doctrine has allowed rogue cops to get away with misconduct.
Ending qualified immunity, which a number of states are currently working on, will repeal these unnecessary protections. Abolishing the doctrine will make it easier to hold bad cops accountable in court. And a clear path to justice is what all victims deserve.
Read Raffi Melkonian’s entire op-ed here.