April 21, 2023

Senator Warren Joins Senator Markey and Representative Pressley in Reintroducing Legislation to End Qualified Immunity

Exactly 152 years after the passage of the Ku Klux Klan Act, Congress seeks to end law enforcement officers' shield of accountability for misconduct.

Bill Text (PDF) | One Pager (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) in introducing the Ending Qualified Immunity Act. This legislation would put an end to a decades-old judicial doctrine that protects government officials, including police officers, against lawsuits holding them liable for violating an individual's constitutional rights. 

The Civil Rights Act of 1871, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, gave individuals the power to sue officials that deprived them of their constitutionally-secured rights. One hundred and fifty years since its passage, the Supreme Court has undermined this landmark legislation by establishing and expanding the concept of qualified immunity, which prohibits individuals from taking action against law enforcement officers who abridge their civil liberties, including by using excessive force. This legislation would permit civil lawsuits against public officials, in their personal capacity, to hold them accountable for their wrongdoing.

In addition to Senator Warren, this bill is also cosponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representatives Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), Emanuel Cleaver III (D-Mo.), Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Valerie Foushee (D-N.C.), Jesús G. "Chuy" García (D-Ill.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Al Green (D-Texas), Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Summer Lee (D-Pa.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Don Payne (D-N.J.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.).

The legislation is also endorsed by: Center for Disability Rights, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, The Leadership Conference, Civil Rights Corp, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, National Immigration Project (NIPNLG), Muslim Advocates, Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), Innocence Project, Campaign To End Qualified Immunity, Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention, DC Democratic Caucus For Returning Citizens, National Black Justice Coalition, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, American Atheists, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Women's Community Justice Association, Long Island Social Justice Action Network, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Amnesty International USA, Open Society Policy Center, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Transformations CDC, American Sustainable Business Council, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Constitutional Accountability Center, Japanese American Citizens League, Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG), Project On Government Oversight, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Earthjustice, Players Coalition, Demand Justice, MomsRising, Public Justice, The Advocacy and Action Board of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church, Alabama Justice Initiative, Human Rights Watch, Drug Policy Alliance, Our Revolution, Center for Constitutional Rights, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club, National Partnership for Women and Families, Center for Constitutional Rights, Equal Justice Society, Defending Rights and Dissent, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, Rights & Democracy NH, Rights & Democracy VT, DemCast USA, #NoRA, Jamaica Plain Progressives, Peace Action, American Family Voices, The Institute for Justice, Common Defense, Border Network for Human Rights, Indivisible Georgia Coalition, Hispanic Federation, National Equality Action Team, We Testify, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Indivisible San Francisco, Demand Progress, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Protect Democracy, Giffords, Children’s Defense Fund, and Black Lives Matter Grassroots.

In July 2020, Senator Warren joined Senators Markey and Sanders in seeking to end qualified immunity for police officers amid calls for greater accountability after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black people at the hands of cops.