(The Post Millennial) – A pair of Supreme Court decisions came out today siding with police officers on the issue of qualified immunity, and the common theme of both cases was excessive force.
The issue of qualified immunity when it comes to law enforcement has been a topic of controversy since George Floyd’s death last year. But generally speaking, the doctrine gives police officers protection from lawsuits, unless there’s demonstrable proof that someone’s rights were violated.
Democrat Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, an opponent of qualified immunity in Congress, reacted with frustration to today’s SCOTUS news.
By shielding police officers from accountability, qualified immunity encourages more police violence against Black and Brown people. The Supreme Court remains unwilling to correct this injustice. Congress needs to pass my legislation to finally abolish qualified immunity. https://t.co/a0ePZrewjo
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) October 18, 2021
Both of these Supreme Court opinions were unsigned. According to law.com, the meaning of unsigned Supreme Court opinions were initially meant for “routine, non-controversial” matters. But by the time Chief Justice John Roberts came around, they came to designate divisive issues.
Here’s the two issues decided on Monday.
1. California police officer Daniel Rivas-Villegas responded to a domestic abuse call from a 12-year-old afraid that her mother’s boyfriend Ramon Cortesluna was going to hurt the family with a chainsaw. When officers responded, Rivas-Villegas had to place his knee on the left side of Cortesluna’s back to deal with a knife in Cortesluna’s pocket. He sues the cop over “excessive force,” wins in the Ninth Court of Appeals, but then the Supreme Court overturned it, by pointing out how the John LaLonde case the lower courts cited involved an unarmed person whereas Cortesluna was carrying a knife.
2. Three Oklahoma officers, Brandon Vick, Chase Reed, and Josh Girdner, responded to an ex-wife calling 911 because the former husband, Dominic Rollice, was drunk and wouldn’t leave her garage. The officers confront Rollice who ends up grabbing a hammer, raising it behind him in a fashion that made it seem like Rollice was going to attack. The trio of officers opened fire and killed Rollice. His estate sued and the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals said the three “recklessly created the situation,” but the Supreme Court overturned it saying none of the cases cited by the lower court established “unlawful conduct” taken place by the officer.
In CNN’s reporting they make note about how there were “two instances where the court wiped away lower court opinions that had granted qualified immunity to government officials, leading some to believe the court was moving in a new direction to chip away at the doctrine.”
But today’s decisions dash those hopes. When it comes to federal legislation, according to CNBC, congressional efforts at police reform “fell apart” last month as Republicans and Democrats couldn’t come to an agreement.