Supreme Court Rejects Qualified Immunity in Prison Case

In a big turn of events the United States Supreme Court rejected a prison officials claim of qualified immunity in an incident that took place in Texas. Following the George Floyd incident this summer many on the Libertarian spectrum have called for an end to qualified immunity as a way to reform policing in this country.

From Bloomberg Law:

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected correctional officers’ claim of qualified immunity in what the justices said was an egregious case from Texas involving prison officials who confined a man naked for days in filthy cells. 

In an unsigned opinion, the justices Monday took the rare step of ruling against law enforcement in a qualified immunity case.

“Confronted with the particularly egregious facts of this case, any reasonable officer should have realized” that Trent Taylor’s conditions of confinement violated the Constitution, the justices said in the opinion

Taylor said he was naked for six days in two filthy cells. He said the first cell was covered from floor to ceiling in feces from previous occupants and the second had a pool of sewage overflowing from a clogged drain.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the opinion and Justice Amy Coney Barrett didn’t participate. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted officials immunity from suit. But the justices said “no reasonable correctional officer could have concluded that, under the extreme circumstances of this case, it was constitutionally permissible to house Taylor in such deplorably unsanitary conditions for such an extended period of time.” They sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit for further review. 

The high court has previously declined to take on the issue of qualified immunity, a judge-made doctrine that has been criticized for keeping officials from having to answer for alleged rights violations.

The case is Taylor v. Riojas, U.S., No. 19-1261.

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