SCOTUS Decision to Avoid Police Immunity Ruling Leaves Idaho Woman in Limbo

‘There is no shortage of outrageous qualified immunity cases for the Supreme Court to take…’

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Qualified Immunity Case

Shaniz West / IMAGE: Institute for Justice

(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) With the issue of police immunity likely to be taken up by state legislatures—and possibly by Congress—amid the Left’s ongoing effort to “defund the police,” the US Supreme Court shrewdly ducked out of ruling on several politically charged cases involving it.

But that decision comes as a disappointment for some, including an Idaho woman represented by the Institute for Justice who hoped to see closure to her long legal battle against a “clearly established” violation of Fourth Amendment property rights.

Among the half-dozen qualified immunity cases that the court declined to rule on in the current session was that of Shaniz West, whose home was destroyed following a police raid in search of a fugitive who wasn’t there.

Police destroyed the home, even using grenades, but refused to reimburse West for the damages, citing the qualified immunity loophole.

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The Supreme Court established qualified immunity as a legal precedent in a 1983 case. It prevents law enforcement officers from being sued for violating the Constitutional rights of civilians unless the Supreme Court either rules on the merits of the case or has previously ruled on the merits of a case with the same actions and  circumstances.

“Qualified immunity means that government officials can get away with violating your rights as long as they violated them in a way nobody thought of before,” said IJ Attorney Anya Bidwell. “And that means that the most egregious abuses are frequently the ones for which no one can be held to account.”

Justice Clarence Thomas, who has questioned qualified immunity, dissented from the court’s nearly unanimous decision not to hear the case.

“I continue to have strong doubts about our §1983 qualified immunity doctrine,” Thomas wrote in his dissent. “Given the importance of this question, I would grant the petition for certiorari.”

IJ has sent multiple cases to the Supreme Court in hopes that it will hear one of them.

“There is no shortage of outrageous qualified immunity cases for the Supreme Court to take,” said IJ Attorney Patrick Jaicomo.

“It has refused to hear a case this year, but it can only avoid the issue for so long,” he said. “The skewed incentives of qualified immunity guarantee that lower courts will continue to generate more examples of injustice, and we will keep bringing those examples back to the courthouse steps until we break through.”