Qualified Immunity Reform Increased Accountability | 2023 NYS Legislative Agenda

The City Bar supports legislation which would create a remedy for violation of New Yorkers’ rights protected by the State and Federal Constitution, and help ensure accountability for public employees who violate those rights. The bill brings state civil rights law more in line with existing federal law, and creates important reforms—especially to the doctrine of qualified immunity—that the City Bar has already endorsed on the federal level. Qualified immunity reform is necessary because, under existing qualified immunity doctrine, it is practically impossible to hold a law enforcement officer accountable for violating the individual rights of a citizen unless a court has previously ruled that the specific actions in question were unconstitutional. If a court has not so ruled, the defense of qualified immunity often protects the law enforcement officer by default, even in some plainly egregious circumstances. Eliminating the nearly impermeable defense of qualified immunity is therefore essential to addressing police misconduct and holding officers accountable for civil rights violations. It is also important to note that even without the blanket defense of qualified immunity, defendants can still invoke the procedural and substantive defenses available to them.

– New for 2023 –