James King’s Fight for Government Accountability

A new cert petition before the United States Supreme Court asks the Justices to strike down an immunity recognized by a lower court for two police task force officers who brutally beat an innocent college student in 2014. Represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), James King is asking the High Court to hear his case for a second time and close a massive loophole for government officials who violate people’s rights.

James, a law-abiding college student in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was brutally beaten in an unjustifiable case of mistaken identity. Members of a state and federal police task force misidentified James as a fugitive; stopped, searched, beat and choked him into unconsciousness; and then—even after it was clear they had the wrong man—arrested James and charged his with a series of felonies to cover their tracks. After fighting a criminal prosecution aimed at preventing James from vindicating his constitutional rights and sending him to prison, James was acquitted. But that was just the beginning.

James filed a federal lawsuit against the officers and the federal government. The trial court granted the officers qualified immunity, shielding them from accountability, but the appeals court overturned that decision. Normally, that would mean the case would go back to the trial court and James would have the opportunity to make his case in front of a jury. Instead, the federal government appealed to the Supreme Court, asking the Court to create a new type of immunity for the officers.

Upon IJ’s urging, the Court declined to recognize this new immunity and instead asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear IJ’s arguments why it should not be applied. Unfortunately, the Sixth Circuit cited outdated case law to apply the immunity and let the government off the hook. Now, IJ is asking the court to once again hear the case.

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