U.S Supreme Court to Hear Case on “Qualified Immunity” for Police Officer’s Use of Deadly Force

On March 4th 2014, The US Supreme Court will hear arguments involving a 2004 incident where officers shot and killed Donald Rickard and his passender Kelly Allen. They were unarmed.  The case is Plumhoff v. Rickard.

The officer’s invoked “qualified immunity”, which protects government officials from civil liability as long as their conduct does not violate clearly established laws or constitutional rights that a reasonable person would have known.  The District Court for Western District of Tennessee ruled against the officers.  They determined that a “reasonable” person would not consider that Rickard was a clear risk to others.  The officers appealed the decision.  The U.S Appeals Court for the 6th Circuit affirmed the District court’s decision.  The Officer’s appealed to the U.S Supreme Court.

The U.S Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case and determine whether the 6th Circuit erred in their decision.  Although the Rickard family has been successful up to this point, they will face a tough hurdle at the Supreme Court level due to the Supreme Court’s decision in Scott v. Harris in 2007.

In Scott V. Harris, the U.S Supreme court ruled for the officers that used deadly force by ramming their vehicle into the fleeing suspect to stop a high speed chase.  This was a 8-1 decision and 7 of the 8 Justices that supported the decision remain on the bench.  It would appear that law enforcement will win this case due precedent and the court’s current disposition.  

The U.S Supreme Court will hear this case tomorrow, so at least we won’t have to wait long to see the result.  

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