New IJ Civil Rights Tool Tips the Scales Toward Government Accountability
Readers of Liberty & Law know that if you sue a government official for violating your rights, you’ll need to overcome qualified immunity—a judge-made legal doctrine that shields officials of all kinds from accountability—as well as other barriers to accountability under state laws. These doctrines rig the system in favor of government workers, and when combined with the already formidable resources of the government, mean many victims of government abuse never even get their day in court.
Enter the Constitutional GPA: IJ’s new interactive, online tool aims to level the playing field between the government and those seeking to vindicate constitutional rights. The Constitutional GPA both grades states and federal courts of appeals on their immunity practices and provides a powerful, first-of-its-kind tool that ordinary people and attorneys can use to identify the clearly established law necessary to defeat qualified immunity. For example, if someone’s car is searched without justification by a government worker in Nevada, they or their attorney can, by answering just a few simple questions, easily search our database of more than 2,300 cases to find 11 legal decisions clearly establishing a range of relevant constitutional violations.
After a year and a half of research and analysis, IJ unveiled the Constitutional GPA with a special event at the UCLA School of Law in July. Participants enjoyed a walkthrough of the tool and its findings, as well as a Q&A with one of IJ’s newest clients seeking to overcome government immunity: René Quiñonez, who is suing five postal inspection workers for baselessly seizing and searching packages he had shipped to fulfill orders for his busy custom printing business. The launch ended with a live taping of IJ’s Short Circuit podcast featuring a panel of civil rights lawyers and law professors.
The Constitutional GPA is part of IJ’s Project on Immunity and Accountability, which is dedicated to overturning qualified immunity and other legal doctrines that place government workers above the law. While the tool doesn’t solve the problems of qualified immunity and government accountability, it does give people a fighting chance to vindicate their rights. You can access the Constitutional GPA at ij.org/gpa.
Lisa Bergstrom is IJ’s Digital Communications Manager.
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