Additional Reading: Law and Order
Curated by AVB Volunteers
Confessions of a Tough-on-Crime Progressive, The American Prospect, July 13, 2020. Throughout the 1990s, Democrats supported punitive criminal justice laws. The nation has changed, and Democrats must do likewise.It is easy for Democrats to be the lesser evil on racial injustice compared to Trump and Republicans between now and November. There is political danger, however, if Democrats then fail to address racial injustice. Ineffective, half-hearted reforms will be punished, and should be.
How Police Unions Enable and Conceal Abuses of Power, The New Yorker, June 18, 2020. Since the nineteen-sixties, when police unions first became like traditional unions and won the right to bargain collectively, they have had a controversial history. And recent studies suggest that their political and bargaining power has enabled them to win disciplinary systems so lax that they have helped increase police abuses in the United States. Many police-union officials believe that the harder the line they take in defending officers (and ignoring the public’s concerns) the better their chances of being reëlected by their members.
San Antonio Faith Leaders for Law Enforcement Reform: A Proposal for the San Antonio Police Department
Qualified immunity, Legal Information Institute, Cornell University. Specifically, qualified immunity protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff's rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right. When determining whether or not a right was “clearly established,” courts consider whether a hypothetical reasonable official would have known that the defendant’s conduct violated the plaintiff’s rights.
The Case against Qualified Immunity, The National Review, July 13, 2020. Qualified immunity protects all government officials, not just police officers, from financial liability when they violate constitutional rights. Unless the complained-of conduct is “clearly established” as unconstitutional, they’re off the hook. The problem is that courts have defined “clearly established” in such an unusual way that it is nearly impossible to hold law enforcement officers accountable for even the most serious and deliberate violation of constitutional rights.
Suing police for abuse is nearly impossible. The Supreme Court can fix that, Washington Post, June 3, 2020. Plaintiffs can’t win unless they can find a prior case almost exactly like theirs. Abolishing qualified immunity would shift the focus in these cases from an arcane exercise in finding a prior court decision with identical facts and, instead, draw attention to whether government officials have exceeded their constitutional authority. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has written that the court’s qualified immunity decisions send an alarming signal to police officers across the country — “shoot first and think later.”
Special Report: Thousands of U.S. judges who broke laws, oaths remained on the bench, Reuters, June 30, 2020, Judges have made racist statements, lied to state officials and forced defendants to languish in jail without a lawyer – and then returned to the bench, sometimes with little more than a rebuke from the state agencies overseeing their conduct. Many other errant judges have gone unrecognized or undisciplined by the justice system.