Should qualified immunity mean that officials are free to fire a man for refusing to lie under oath?

An employee for the Arizona Department of Public Safety refused to change is his sworn testimony before a court and was allegedly fired for refusing to commit perjury. He sued and the court ruled that the state violated his rights, but qualified immunity prevented any recovery of damages from the officials who were responsible.

Here is an excerpt from a letter to USA Today:

I brought suit in federal court for the violation of my First Amendment right to free speech. Everyone I talked to, including many lawyers, said, “They can’t do that. The government can’t order you to change your testimony, then punish you if you still tell the truth.”

Unbelievably, they were wrong.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona agreed there was a violation of my free speech rights but granted the defendants qualified immunity, which means they won’t have to pay monetary damages.

The court ruled that the law was not “clearly established” on whether government employees had a First Amendment right to be free from discipline for in-court testimony offered as part of their job.

Here is a commentary on the case:

Is qualified immunity encouraging blatant lawlessness in government?


Qualified Immunity was an abuse the moment it was conceived.


The scary part is that if the court of appeals has not ruled on the exact circumstances (i.e. the story of the police stealing money) then they can’t make a ruling. It really flies in the face of the whole concept of nobody is above the law. And the guy in the video makes a good point that cops have been doing their jobs for centuries before qualified immunity came along. I think that the argument that without it folks would not want to be cops is bogus.

The original legal strategy by the Federalist Society was to get rid of Miranda warnings and the concept of inadmissible evidence at the state level and the right to a free lawyer but by the late 80s it was clear Americans would ■■■■■■■ riot if they did, so they adopted the workaround of expanding qualified immunity and limiting legal standing until it accomplished basically the same thing.

In the United States, qualified immunity is a legal principle that grants government officials performing discretionary (optional) functions immunity from civil suits unless the plaintiff shows that the official violated “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known”.

It sounds to me like he has a case?

Qualified immunity - Wikipedia

The federal appeals court ruled that if though the state official violated the employee’s constitutional rights, there was no case law that establishes that they should be liable for damages.

Theoretically state officials involved in the firing could face criminal charges under state law for their actions, but prosecutors almost never file charges in these cases. The officials should be fired or face disciplinary actions, but they are more likely to get promoted instead.

The bigger issue is that this kind of behavior by government officials threatens the rights of everyone since officials can force employees to lie in order to enforce their edicts in court. Qualified immunity, civil service protections, and prosecutorial discretion mean that unelected officials are effectively above the law.

image SCOTUS here I come :sunglasses: :tumbler_glass:

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