The Ugly Underside of Police Immunity Illustrated by Nation’s Top Constitutional Scholar

Erwin Chemerinsky is recognized by all as one of the most brilliant constitutional scholars of this era. Now the law school Dean at the University of California, Irvine, Chemerinsky is legendary in in his ability to teach for days on end – in mind boggling detail – without any notes whatsoever, on any subtle nuance-issue contained within our Constitution.

He is, quite literally, a walking encyclopedia of law and American history. His brain is something out of Hollywood fiction: a replica of Bradley Cooper’s 4-digit IQ in the movie, “Limitless.” (One of the greatest trailers ever, seen HERE.)

And without stumbling upon his treatises halfway through law school, I would have never imagined the interest, appreciation or understanding of constitutional law I now so cherish. When this man speaks, I listen. When this man writes, I read.   

And I’ve never read such a controversial or strongly-worded opinion as he puts forth in this week’s New York Times. Here’s an excerpt with links to the article:

How the Supreme Court Protects Bad Cops

Policeman Photographed Covertly Macing Children
Police Caught Covertly Macing Children


“Police officers and other law enforcement personnel who commit perjury have absolute immunity and cannot be sued for money, even when it results in the imprisonment of an innocent person. A prosecutor who commits misconduct, as in Mr. Thompson’s case, also has absolute immunity to civil suits. READ FULL ARTICLE HERE.

“When there is not absolute immunity, police officers are still protected by “qualified immunity” when sued for monetary damages. The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia in 2011, ruled that a government officer can be held liable only if ‘every reasonable official’ would have known that his conduct was unlawful. For example, the officer who shot Michael Brown can be held liable only if every reasonable officer would have known that the shooting constituted the use of excessive force and was not self-defense. READ FULL ARTICLE HERE.

“The Supreme Court has used this doctrine in recent years to deny damages to an eighth-grade girl who was strip-searched by school officials on suspicion that she had prescription-strength ibuprofen. It has also used it to deny damages to a man who, under a material-witness warrant, was held in a maximum-security prison for 16 days and on supervised release for 14 months, even though the government had no intention of using him as a material witness or even probable cause to arrest him. In each instance, the court stressed that the government officer could not be held liable, even though the Constitution had clearly been violated.”  READ FULL ARTICLE HERE.

– Excerpt from Erwin Chemerinsky’s New York Times’ Op-Ed Column