Jul 12, 2018

Diverse Coalition Asks Supreme Court to Hear Case Advancing Civil Rights

Post by Freedom Partners

Today, Freedom Partners joined an amicus brief alongside Americans for Prosperity, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Cato Institute, and many others asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Allah v. Milling. Our organization joined this brief because of our commitment to civil rights and a society that ensures equal justice under the law for all.

The case regards qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects government officials from being sued over their actions unless such actions violate “clearly established” federal law or constitutional rights.

Qualified immunity has been criticized for undermining faith in our system of justice. As Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently noted, this doctrine “sends an alarming signal to law enforcement officers and the public. It tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.”

Wrote the Cato Institute, “the Supreme Court has emphasized that the practical effect of this so-called qualified immunity doctrine is to protect ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.’ That is a breathtakingly low standard, and patients would flee from a hospital that expected no more from its doctors.”

Allah v. Milling involves a petitioner, Almighty Supreme Born Allah, a pretrial detainee who was kept in solitary confinement for nearly seven months for asking why prisoners were being denied access to the commissary. Mr. Allah then brought a Section 1983 claim, which allows people to sue the government for civil rights violations, against the prison officials. The district court denied qualified immunity to the prison officials and awarded Mr. Allah $62,650.

The case was appealed to the Second Circuit which unanimously agreed that Mr. Allah’s due process rights were violated, but in a split decision, the majority gave the prison officials qualified immunity because the “Defendants were following an established Department of Corrections practice,” and “[no prior decision of the Supreme Court or of this Court . . . has assessed the constitutionality of that particular practice.”

The brief we’re joining argues that the Second Circuit’s decision was wrong and examines whether the doctrine of qualified immunity should be reconsidered due to its questionable violation of constitutional rights. This comes after Justice Clarence Thomas stated last year in a concurrence that, “In an appropriate case, we should reconsider our qualified immunity jurisprudence.”

Freedom Partners supports restoring the original intent of Section 1983, which says that an individual can sue a government official who uses or abuses his or her power to violate that person’s civil rights. By holding public officials accountable, we can better protect the individual rights of all citizens.

The full list of organizations who are joining the brief include: The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Association for Justice, Americans for Prosperity, Cause of Action Institute, the Due Process Institute, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the Institute for Justice, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Police Accountability Project, Public Justice, Reason Foundation, and the Second Amendment Foundation.