Text: H.R.7085 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (06/04/2020)

[Congressional Bills 116th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
[H.R. 7085 Introduced in House (IH)]


  2d Session
                                H. R. 7085

   To amend the Revised Statutes to remove the defense of qualified 
 immunity in the case of any action under section 1979, and for other 



                              June 4, 2020

Mr. Amash (for himself, Ms. Pressley, Ms. Omar, Ms. DeGette, Mr. Garcia 
  of Illinois, Mr. Blumenauer, Mr. McGovern, Ms. Pingree, Ms. Ocasio-
Cortez, Mr. Espaillat, Mr. Meeks, Ms. Velazquez, Ms. Norton, Ms. Lee of 
California, Mr. Takano, Mr. Carson of Indiana, Mrs. Carolyn B. Maloney 
of New York, and Mr. Kennedy) introduced the following bill; which was 
               referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


                                 A BILL

   To amend the Revised Statutes to remove the defense of qualified 
 immunity in the case of any action under section 1979, and for other 

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the ``Ending Qualified Immunity Act''.


    The Congress finds as follows:
            (1) In 1871, Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Act to combat 
        rampant violations of civil and constitutionally secured rights 
        across the Nation, particularly in the post-Civil War South.
            (2) Included in the act was a provision, now codified at 
        section 1983 of title 42, United States Code, which provides a 
        cause of action for individuals to file lawsuits against State 
        and local officials who violate their legal and 
        constitutionally secured rights.
            (3) Section 1983 has never included a defense or immunity 
        for government officials who act in good faith when violating 
        rights, nor has it ever had a defense or immunity based on 
        whether the right was ``clearly established'' at the time of 
        the violation.
            (4) From the law's beginning in 1871, through the 1960s, 
        government actors were not afforded qualified immunity for 
        violating rights.
            (5) In 1967, the Supreme Court in Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 
        547, suddenly found that government actors had a good faith 
        defense for making arrests under unconstitutional statutes 
        based on a common law defense for the tort of false arrest.
            (6) The Court later extended this beyond false arrests, 
        turning it into a general good faith defense for government 
            (7) Finally, in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982), 
        the Court found the subjective search for good faith in the 
        government actor unnecessary, and replaced it with an 
        ``objective reasonableness'' standard that requires that the 
        right be ``clearly established'' at the time of the violation 
        for the defendant to be liable.
            (8) This doctrine of qualified immunity has severely 
        limited the ability of many plaintiffs to recover damages under 
        section 1983 when their rights have been violated by State and 
        local officials. As a result, the intent of Congress in passing 
        the law has been frustrated, and Americans' rights secured by 
        the Constitution have not been appropriately protected.


    It is the sense of the Congress that we must correct the erroneous 
interpretation of section 1983 which provides for qualified immunity, 
and reiterate the standard found on the face of the statute, which does 
not limit liability on the basis of the defendant's good faith beliefs 
or on the basis that the right was not ``clearly established'' at the 
time of the violation.


    Section 1979 of the Revised Statutes (42 U.S.C. 1983) is amended by 
adding at the end the following: ``It shall not be a defense or 
immunity to any action brought under this section that the defendant 
was acting in good faith, or that the defendant believed, reasonably or 
otherwise, that his or her conduct was lawful at the time when it was 
committed. Nor shall it be a defense or immunity that the rights, 
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws were not 
clearly established at the time of their deprivation by the defendant, 
or that the state of the law was otherwise such that the defendant 
could not reasonably have been expected to know whether his or her 
conduct was lawful.''.

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