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Supreme Court hears argument on qualified immunity

The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] on Tuesday in the case of Plumhoff v. Rickard [transcript, PDF] on whether the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit erred in denying qualified immunity to police offers who were found to have used unreasonable force against a suspect. The case was brought on appeal by six officers who claimed qualified legal immunity to a civil lawsuit filed by the daughter of a man killed when he lost control of his vehicle after being shot by police officers following a high-speed pursuit along the border of Arkansas and Tennessee. Counsel for petitioners argued that they "were not given fair warning that the use of force in this case, if it was prohibited, was prohibited, and they retain immunity, and the Sixth Circuit must be reversed." Counsel for respondent argued that there are material issues of fact that remain in dispute, and that those issues should be determined by a jury. Counsel for the US also argued on the petitioner's behalf.

Plumhoff v. Rickard is closely related to the US Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Scott v. Harris [text]. In this case, the court held that police did not use excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment [text] when they rammed a car during a high-speed pursuit in order to stop a suspect who, as a result of the incident, was rendered quadriplegic.

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