Excessive Reasonableness

38 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2009 Last revised: 22 Sep 2015

See all articles by Diana Hassel

Diana Hassel

Roger Williams University School of Law

Date Written: August 18, 2009


This Article examines a crucial flaw in qualified immunity doctrine and how it results in overprotection of defendants from liability. When qualified immunity is applied in a Fourth Amendment excessive force case, the defendant, typically a police officer, is protected from liability by two layers of reasonableness. First, qualified immunity absolves an individual government agent from liability under 42 U.S.C. §1983, notwithstanding his violation of a constitutional right, if his actions were “objectively reasonable.” Second, the agent is likewise absolved from liability, under the Fourth Amendment itself, if the amount of force used was “objectively reasonable.” When these two doctrines converge, an almost impenetrable barrier to liability results. While the Supreme Court has repeatedly tried to resolve conflicts inherent in qualified immunity doctrine, most recently in Pearson v. Callahan, the excessive reasonableness in the qualified immunity regime, and the excessive force that is its practical consequence, remain.

Suggested Citation

Hassel, Diana, Excessive Reasonableness (August 18, 2009). Indiana Law Review, Vol. 43, p. 117, 2009, Roger Williams Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 75, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1457341

Diana Hassel (Contact Author)

Roger Williams University School of Law ( email )

10 Metacom Avenue
Bristol, RI 02809
United States

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