Each circuit is assigned a relative, norm-referenced grade based on the number of statements of clearly established law (SOCEL) its Court of Appeals has announced. Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, SOCELs are required to overcome immunity. Accordingly, the number of SOCELs in a given circuit directly reflects the breadth of enforceable constitutional rights available in that circuit.
In five categories, the circuits are compared and assigned percentiles. The circuit with the highest number of SOCELs receives a 100%, the lowest a 0%, and the rest are ranked by percentile. Then, grades and GPA scores are assigned by the following grading scale:
The overall GPA and grade for a circuit are determined by the average of the circuit’s five category scores.
Combined GPAs are determined by averaging the circuit grade with the state or local grade from our 50 Shades of Government Immunity report. This allows for both states (and territories and the District of Columbia) and circuits to be compared, separately or together, based on the availability of remedies for rights violations committed by government workers.
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