The Case Against Qualified Immunity

56 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2018 Last revised: 15 Aug 2018

See all articles by Joanna C. Schwartz

Joanna C. Schwartz

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Date Written: February 20, 2018


In Ziglar v. Abbasi, Justice Clarence Thomas recommended to the Court that, “[i]n an appropriate case, we should reconsider our qualified immunity jurisprudence.” If the Supreme Court did find an appropriate case to reconsider qualified immunity, and took seriously available evidence about qualified immunity’s historical precedents and current operation, it could not justify continued existence of the doctrine in its current form. Qualified immunity is historically unmoored, ineffective at achieving its policy ends, and detrimental to the development of constitutional law. Scholarly defenses of the doctrine are similarly unpersuasive. The Court should not feel constrained by stare decisis, given the questionable foundations of qualified immunity and the liberty the Court has taken with its scope and structure over the fifty years of its existence. And there are many ways, short of downright repeal, that the Court could adjust the doctrine to better reflect its role in constitutional litigation. The Supreme Court has created the mess that is qualified immunity, and it is time for them to clean it up.

Suggested Citation

Schwartz, Joanna C., The Case Against Qualified Immunity (February 20, 2018). 93 Notre Dame Law Review 1797 (2018), UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 18-05, Available at SSRN:

Joanna C. Schwartz (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
(310) 206-4032 (Phone)

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics