Following the police killing of George Floyd, the once-obscure legal doctrine known as qualified immunity has been thrust into the national spotlight.
The judge-made doctrine effectively shields police from most civil lawsuits unless their specific conduct has been “clearly established” as unconstitutional in a previous case.
“You know, there’s an old adage, ignorance of the law is no excuse,” says William Baude, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. “The one group of people for whom it is an excuse are the government officials who…should know what they are and aren’t supposed to do.”
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