Police Militarization and the Doctrine of Qualified Immunity

The Murnaghan Fellowship, 05.16.19

Murnaghan Fellow Ejaz Baluch filed an amicus curiae brief today in Livingston v. Kehagias, an excessive force case now pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  The plaintiffs in Livingston, residents of Hartnett County, North Carolina, allege that they were subjected to extreme violence in their interactions with the county sheriff’s department.  The plaintiffs include the family of John Livingston, who, while unarmed, was shot and killed during an encounter at his home.

Ejaz’s brief, submitted on behalf of the Public Justice Center and North Carolina Advocates for Justice, argues against unduly broad conceptions of the doctrine of qualified immunity.  The brief also responds to an amicus brief submitted in support of the sheriff’s office defendants by the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, which argues that, because of supposedly “war-like” conditions in American communities, expansive conceptions of qualified immunity are necessary.  Ejaz’s brief documents that rates of violence against law enforcement officers are at their lowest levels in many decades, and it describes the adverse and dangerous consequences, for minority communities in particular, of the increasing militarization of law enforcement.

The brief is available here.