Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview on Tuesday his legislation to reform qualified immunity would create transparency and accountability for America’s law enforcement while protecting them from frivolous lawsuits.
Braun introduced the Reforming Qualified Immunity Act on Tuesday, which would reform law enforcement’s qualified immunity legal protection to open up them to civil lawsuits.
Braun contended the Supreme Court granted law enforcement and government employees an overly broad qualified immunity defense, even when they allegedly commit egregious acts. Qualified has become under increasing scrutiny in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Braun told Breitbart News that Republicans need to move on qualified immunity and police reform, or else Democrats will enact their more excessive proposal to eliminate qualified immunity. The Hoosier conservative has long advocated for the GOP to lead on healthcare reform as well as the environment.
Braun spoke to Breitbart News as Senate Democrats have strongly signaled they plan to filibuster Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) Justice Act unless Republicans grant Democrats more concessions.
Braun said, “I think when it comes to leading on something like this, I believe it’s in the category of reforming health care, I think it’s in the category of Republicans and conservatives need to be involved in the climate discussion. That’s the two areas I’ve spent the most time in. And then hold to our principles, which we seem to let erode now because in most instances we’re slow to get behind a topic end up forgetting about small government, spending, and all of that to boot."
He continued, “I think it comes down to basic rights and why it should be about transparency, accountability, individual responsibility. Why should we make an exception in this case? Democrats are looking like they don’t want to lead because they generally want to get out there with solutions that are going to involve more government and maybe go too overboard. Qualified immunity is a great example where it’s morphed over time to where it eliminates almost all accountability, and that’s not good; Democrats want to eliminate it, which I think law enforcement is different from other jobs. They can’t just be set up by a whole bunch of frivolous lawsuits, but they certainly should be accountable for the egregious violations of civil rights.”
Braun’s Reforming Qualified Immunity Act would restore the original qualified immunity standard by stipulating that government employees, as well as law enforcement officers, would be protected when:
The conduct alleged to be unlawful had previously been authorized or required by federal or state statute or regulation.
A court had found that alleged unlawful conduct with consistent with the Constitution and federal law.
The White House and high-ranking Republicans have voiced opposition to limiting qualified immunity.
Kaleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said last week, “Taking away qualified immunity would make the streets of this country a whole lot less secure. The Supreme Court has litigated this for decades and has approached what they think is the appropriate balance with qualified immunity.”
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said during a press conference last week qualified helps protect good police officers from frivolous and unnecessary lawsuits.
“I think the immunity would prevent good cops from doing their job,” McCarthy said.
“It was a court decision on how to protect good cops, but also the ability to go after bad cops. Removing would maybe harm the ability of cops,” he added.
Braun cited that Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor have called for the nation’s highest court to revisit qualified immunity.
Thomas wrote in a dissent in June on the court’s decision not to hear a case on qualified immunity, “There is likely no basis for the objective inquiry into clearly established law that our modern cases prescribe. Leading treatises from the second half of the 19th century and case law until the 1980s contain no support for this ‘clearly established law’ test.”
Conservative, libertarian, and criminal justice organizations such as FreedomWorks, Justice Action Network, Right on Crime, R Street, and Americans for Prosperity support Braun’s legislation.
Jason Pye, the vice president for legislative affairs for FreedomWorks, said Braun’s legislation would help address criminal justice concerns.
Braun said he believes his legislation strikes a balanced approach between giving law enforcement officers and government employees protections from frivolous lawsuits while allowing for accountability.
“I think that my bill addresses a good landing point on clarifying what’s murky and drives. It drives the principle of accountability back into the discussion,” Braun said.
Braun cautioned if Republicans fail to lead on criminal justice reform, they will face significant repercussions.
Braun said “Republicans will be blamed for it mostly because we weren’t willing to do something that was practical in the middle and it needs to be done, and that’s to reform qualified immunity.”