Case Could Reshape Civil Rights Immunity Doctrine

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The U.S. Supreme Court next week may decide whether to grant review in a case that has drawn interest from a wide range of ideological groups intent on challenging the court’s qualified immunity doctrine, The National Law Journal reports. That doctrine developed in the last 50 years as a way to soften punishment for government officials accused of civil rights violations, and it has been challenged by libertarian and civil rights advocates — and by justices as ideologically disparate as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia — as an ambiguous, court-invented exemption.

In the case before the court, I.B. v. Woodard, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January dismissed claims by representatives of a 4-year-old Colorado girl who was strip searched and photographed without a warrant or parental consent by a government social worker after allegations that the child had been abused. Among the groups urging the court to hear the case are the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Cato Institute, Alliance Defending Freedom, R Street Institute, and the Second Amendment Foundation. No law enforcement organizations have filed briefs defending qualified immunity in the case.

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