LAWRENCE — The U.S. Supreme Court announced today it had declined to hear challenges to qualified immunity, which gives government workers, including police officers, broad protections when accused of violating constitutional rights. The protection has come into question outside of legal circles recently following the death of George Floyd in police custody and other instances of police brutality. Lumen Mulligan, a civil litigation and jurisdiction law expert at the University of Kansas, is available to discuss the decision with media, including a dissent from Justice Clarence Thomas.
Qualified immunity has been called a legal catch-22, as it makes prosecution of police officers and other officials extremely difficult by requiring misconduct to be explicitly defined in previous law before conviction. Mulligan can discuss qualified immunity, the high court’s decision not to hear challenges, previous court rulings on the protections and related topics.
“Citizens are often shocked when they learn that government officials can violate the Constitution and yet escape any civil liability,” Mulligan said. “Justice Thomas’ opinion demonstrates that, at least in his view, the legal grounds for the continued application of qualified-immunity doctrine are lacking.”
Mulligan, the Earl B. Shurtz Research Professor at KU Law, teaches classes on civil litigation and has written or co-written five books and treatises on jurisdiction and procedure. His work has been cited frequently by federal and state courts at all levels. He also serves or has served on the Kansas Judicial Council-Civil Rules Advisory Committee, the executive community of the appellate section of the Kansas Bar Association and U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Criminal Justice Act Panel.