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Qualified Immunity 360: A Multi-Part Presentation on the History, Legal Basis, and Utility of the Judge-Made Defense to Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The Washington State Minority and Justice Commission is sponsoring a day-long presentation on qualified immunity, co-hosted by Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu and Judge David Whedbee of the King County Superior Court. The presentation aims to facilitate a 360-degree view discussion of this doctrine, to educate practitioners, judges, law students, and the public on the mechanics, history, and public policy behind the doctrine. 
The webinar event will be on May 7, 2021, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (with discussion afterward for those who are interested), co-sponsored by Washington State’s three law schools and the Washington State Bar Association.  CLE credit is available.

The current roster of presenters is:

1. David Owens, Seattle/Chicago-based plaintiff’s side practitioner with active § 1983 litigation across the country, will address his practical analysis when doing case selection, in light of the current qualified immunity case law and procedural obstacles. Mr. Owens, who teaches a class at Stanford on race and § 1983, will also discuss the disproportionate impact of police use of force on communities of color.  [8:30am – 9:30am].

2. Brian Maxey, former Assistant City Attorney for the Cities of Seattle and New York, will discuss an officer’s ability to resort to qualified immunity and its advantages in litigation.  Mr. Maxey will also address related issues of officer indemnification and municipal liability. [9:40am to 10:40am].

3. Tiffany Wright, adjunct professor at the Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic, will provide the social and legal historical background for the emergence of the doctrine, including the legislative intent that animated the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and the failure in the post-Reconstruction era to enforce constitutional protections under the Act through to Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167 (1961). [10:50am – 11:50am].

4. Prof. James Pfander of the Northwestern School of Law will address the legal validity of qualified immunity as rooted in the common law at the time of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, as held in Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967), in addition to relevant common law defenses and remedies available during the Antebellum period.

5. Prof. Janet Hoeffel of Tulane Law School will discuss the advent of the “reasonably unreasonable police officer” in Pierson and as further developed in subsequent case law such as Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982), as the U.S. Supreme Court expanded its theory for qualified immunity based on a public policy of shielding officers from the burdens of litigation.
[Profs. Pfander and Hoeffel will have a combined presentation, from 12:30pm to 1:30pm]

6. Prof. Joanna Schwartz of the UCLA School of Law will address the question of how the public policies that underlie qualified immunity work in practice, in terms of impacts on courts and litigants based on her empirical research. [1:40pm to 2:40pm].

7. Judge Carlton Reeves, of the Southern District of Mississippi, will discuss his qualified immunity opinion in Jamison v. McClendon, No. 16cv-595-CWR-LRA (S.D.Miss. Aug. 4, 2020), including his approach to drafting and any reactions to the opinion. His presentation will occur in an interview format with Chief Justice Steve González of the Supreme Court of Washington. [3:00pm to 4:00pm].

Pre-Registration is required:

Connect with the community

We recognize that the court can be mysterious and black robes can be intimidating. We want to break down those barriers through our Court and Communities group.

We connect with our communities through presentations, in-person visits, and events which we host and attend. We talk to youth, civic groups, and legal organizations. 

We pick the topic or you pick the topic. Our goal is to improve the two-way conversation. We have as much to learn from you as you do from us.

Some previous topics have included: 

  • Juvenile Justice
  • Legal help for litigants with no attorney or limited English
  • Bail reform 
  • How to court works and how it is funded

To arrange for a speaker, please contact our Communications Manager, by email or phone at 206.477-0127.

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January - Martin Luther King Day luncheon (Judge Keenan & Judge Moore)

February - Black History Month (Judge McCullough & Judge Phelps) 

February/March - Mock Trial (Judge McHale)

May - Asian Pacific American Heritage month (Judge Chung)

June - LGBTQ Pride Month (Judge Bender & Judge Scott) 

September - LatinX Heritage Month (Judge McCullough)

September - Constitution Day (Judge Moore & Judge Scott)

October - Disability Awareness Day (Judge Shaffer) 

November - Native American Heritage Event (Judge McCullough, Judge McHale, Judge Rothrock)

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