Michele Rayner, Shervin Jones file bill to end qualified immunity
Michele Rayner-Goolsby and Shevrin Jones filed bills allowing civil action against law enforcement officers who violate a person's rights.

jones goolsby
The bill would make is easier for victims to pursue legal action against government employees.

Rep. Michele Rayner and Sen. Shevrin Jones have filed legislation to end qualified immunity for government employees.

The bills, HB 261 and SB 670, would allow a person to more easily pursue legal action against a government employee for wrongdoing.

Currently, qualified immunity shields government workers from being held personally liable in suits where they are accused of violating someone’s rights.

“We believe starting the conversation to put an end to the doctrine of qualified immunity is something that we in the state of Florida should start to look at,” Jones said.

While a person may pursue legal action against the governmental body for an employee’s actions, it is difficult to file a civil suit against an individual government employee.

Florida’s modern qualified immunity doctrine stems from a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case. Under the law, a case can only progress if a court can establish the government worker violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right.

The bill specifies on what grounds qualified immunity cannot be used.

Under the bill, a person can be held liable if the court determines they were acting maliciously or in disregard for the victims’ rights, and if the agent’s actions deprived the individual of their constitutional rights.

Jones cited several events over the summer of 2020 that pushed him to file the bill, including the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Under qualified immunity, the individual officers involved are protected from civil suits.

“I think a lot of this is in response to the hideous, unjust acts of police misconduct, including the countless murders of individuals by the hands of police officers,” Jones said.

While Jones said some of his Republican colleagues disagree with the bill, he has found others that support the idea of ending qualified immunity.

“What we can agree on is that no one should be able to violate someone’s constitutional rights, and then get away with it because of this blanket of protection,” Jones said.

If passed, the bill would take effect Oct. 1.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at kelly@floridapolitics.com.


4 comments

  • Sonja Fitch

    January 17, 2021 at 6:20 am

    Please pass this Bill! Duffus Desantis and his band of goptrump death cult sociopaths have been willingly slaughtering Floridians! Vote Florida Democrat Blue in 2022!

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    January 17, 2021 at 8:52 am

    Fitch is the usual 🤪😜. So police officers, etc would have to buy insurance policies in case they got sued. And of course knowing they have them, opportunists will be very eager to sue.

  • Rita Girard

    January 17, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    That would include bureaucrats, teachers, etc., ‘government workers’, right?

  • Madame Holmes

    January 17, 2021 at 7:57 pm

    No one should cloak themselves under a job description for taking a life liberty, or justice …and swear in oath to serve and protect. The force has been long ongoing with civil lack of oversight and accountable io it’s taxpayers …let one incorporate it’s lobbying interest in conflict to it’s duties and oath.

Comments are closed.


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