Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Group praises Julián Castro’s plan to limit ‘immunity’ for police

Tucked into Julián Castro’s police overhaul plan is a proposal to pull back on a judicial doctrine that is regularly used to shield officers from civil lawsuits for brutality or misuse of deadly force.

Castro has called for reforming and restricting the “qualified immunity” defense for law enforcement officers in the policing reform plan he released last Monday. That call has drawn the attention of the liberal group Demand Justice, which is planning a digital ad campaign to thank Castro for taking the stand and to call on other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to do the same.

“Castro is the only 2020 candidate so far to even mention it,” said Brian Fallon, Demand Justice’s executive director. The ads are not endorsements and are not coordinated with the campaign.

The qualified immunity defense essentially gives the benefit of the doubt to law enforcement officers who are sued over actions that took place while carrying out their official duties. It extends the protections from being sued for unconstitutional conduct to government officials.

“Issues like qualified immunity have long been a roadblock to accountability in our criminal justice system,” Castro told NBC News. “I’m proud to put forward a People First Policing plan to ensure officers aren’t above the law and states can’t turn a blind eye to police misconduct.”

The qualified immunity defense is getting greater scrutiny of late, particularly since Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a passionate dissent in the case of the 2010 police shooting of Amy Hughes outside her home. The court ruled last year that the officer was immune from being sued.

The issue also is being raised in a case now before the Supreme Court: a lawsuit filed by the parents of Sergio Hernandez Guereca, 15-year-old Mexican teen who was killed when a Border Patrol agent fired several shots across the U.S.-Mexican border. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled his family can’t sue because he was killed in another country.

NBC NEWS

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