Supreme Court Rejects Hearing Cases on California’s Sanctuary Law And Qualified Immunity

From the Los Angeles Times, the Supreme Court has refused to hear the Trump administration’s challenge to California’s sanctuary laws. This will leave in place laws that defend local and state law enforcement agencies from aiding federal immigration agents as they take custody of immigrants being released from jail.

Seen as a major victory for California as Trump has battled against sanctuary city laws, the state’s rights doctrine has prevailed.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. voted to hear the appeal, but even Trump appointees Gorsuch and Kavanaugh declined.

Also affecting California were the Court’s denial to hear gun rights cases, allowing the state to continue having great leeway in who may receive licenses for concealed carry permits. Gun owners must show they have “good cause” to carry a gun, and law enforcement officials in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other urban areas do not grant many such permits.

Reuters has also reported that the Supremes have rejected hearing cases involving “qualified immunity,” which can be used to shield government officials and police officers from lawsuits over excessive force. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the “qualified immunity doctrine appears to stray from the statutory text.”

The Supreme Court recognized qualified immunity 50 years ago to protect government officials from frivolous lawsuits. Police have said the doctrine ensures that they can make split-second decisions in dangerous situations without the hindrance of worrying about being sued later.

A growing chorus is suggesting the doctrine allows police brutality to go unpunished. Because of Supreme Court decisions, most lower courts are dismissing police misconduct cases because there was no “clearly established” court precedent forbidding the conduct.

That’s why critics of the qualified immunity doctrine have called it a Catch-22 that says to victims, in effect, “Heads, the police win. Tails, you lose.”

Also see more at NPR.