End qualified immunity in Washington
Bills and Legislation
HB 1202 is a unique bill in that it proposed to end qualified immunity not for all constitutional violations, but for violations that were deemed to be the most harmful and common to victims––some more expansive than ones constitutional rights. The bill gained media traction and was the topic of multiple public hearings, however, ultimately did not pass out of the house.
Ends Qualified Immunity for all law enforcement officers
Yes. The proposed legislation prohibits law enforcement officers from claiming immunity or using a defense based on unclear establishment of and knowledge of plaintiff’s rights at the time of the act and/or lawfulness of the act. It states, "It is not an immunity or defense to an action brought under this chapter that: (a) The rights, privileges, or immunities sued upon were not clearly established at the time of the act, omission, or decision by the peace officer or employer; or (b) At such time, that the state of the law was such that the peace officer or employer could not reasonably have been expected to know whether such act, omission, or decision was lawful."
Ends Qualified Immunity for all public employees
No. The proposed legislation only bans qualified immuntiny for law enforcement officers.
Ends Qualified Immunity for all state constitutional violations
Partially Meets Standard. The proposed legislation only provides cause of action for people injured in person or property for a listed violation of rights, some of which are more expansive than constitutional rights, but does not explicitly include all violations of rights. The legislation states, “. . . any person injured in person or property by a peace officer acting under color of authority has a cause of action against the peace officer if the peace officer: (a) Engaged in conduct that under common law constitutes an assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional trespass, or conversion; or (b) Executed a detention, traffic stop, search, seizure, or entry into a home that is unlawful under the state Constitution; or (c) Engaged in conduct that violated the duty of reasonable care under chapter . . ., Laws of 2021 (House Bill No. 1310); or (d) Violated a provision of RCW 10.93.160.7”
Ends monetary caps on all public liability amounts
Yes. The proposed legislation does not address caps and current Washington State statutes do not place caps on civil damage suits.
Implements a failure-to-intervene clause
Partially Meets Standard. The proposed legislation only holds officers civilly liable when failing to intervene for witnessing a listed violation of rights, some of which are more expansive than constitutional rights, but does not explicitly expand to the scope of all violations of rights. There is no reporting requirement for failure to intervene. The proposed legislation states, :Sec. 3. (1) Any person injured in person or property by a peace officer acting under color of authority has a cause of action against the peace officer, and against any other peace officer who had the power through reasonable diligence to prevent or aid in preventing the injury from occurring and failed to do so, . . ."
Guarantees that victims are compensated the full amount awarded
Yes. The proposed legislation guarantees that victims are compensated the full amount awarded if the conduct was within the scope of the peace officer’s employment. It states, "(2) In an action against a peace officer under subsection (1) of this section, the plaintiff may also name the officer's employer as a defendant. The employer is vicariously liable if the unlawful conduct causing the injury was within the scope of the peace officer's employment. (3) A peace officer has a defense against an action brought under subsection (1) of this section if, when the injury occurred, the officer substantially complied with a regulation, practice, procedure, policy, or training that was established by the employer or approved or condoned by superior officers. If the peace officer proves this defense, the employer is independently liable for the injury if the injury was proximately caused by a regulation, practice, procedure, policy, or training approved or condoned by the employer. (4) The employer is also independently liable for the injury if a proximate cause of the injury was the employer's failure to use reasonable care in hiring, training, retaining, supervising, or disciplining the peace officer."
Starts attorney fees
Yes. The proposed legislation awards attorney fees and costs to prevailing plaintiff. It states, "The court shall award to a prevailing plaintiff actual damages as determined by the trier of fact, and shall make an award of at least nominal damages. The court shall also award to a prevailing plaintiff costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. The court may grant declaratory and injunctive relief as it deems appropriate."
Starts holding individual employees accountable
No. The proposed legislation does not hold individual employees financially accountable, nor does it require professional consequences such as decertification.
Starts disclosing public records
Yes. The proposed legislation is silent on records disclosure, however, existing state law is generous regarding disclosure of records for police officer discipline.
Case studies in Washington
Qualified immunity impacts everyone. Officers in your state are violating community members’ rights without consequence.
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