Prospective Supreme Court nominee wants to get rid of qualified immunity, continue to defund police

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WASHINGTON, DC — Whispers are that one of the potential nominees to replace U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer is a civil rights attorney who wants to get rid of qualified immunity for police and continue defunding them as well.

Sherrilyn Ifill is one woman who President Joe Biden is reportedly considering as Breyer’s replacement on the Supreme Court.

Ifill is the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), a civil rights law organization fighting for racial justice and equality, which is not connected to the NAACP despite the similarities in names.

The organization’s motto is “DEFEND EDUCATE EMPOWER.”

Previous lawyers who worked with LDF created the legal strategy that led to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, a transformative and monumental legal decision made in 1954 that legally ended decades of racial segregation in U.S. public schools.

Who is Ifill and what are her views?

According to Ifill’s biography on NAACP LDF’s website, she earned her J.D. degree from New York University School of Law in 1987.

Ifill then began her career as a Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union and later joined the staff of the LDF as an assistant counsel in 1988, where she litigated voting rights cases for five years.

In 1993, Ifill left LDF to join the faculty at University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, where she taught civil procedure and constitutional law for over 20 years.

She also “pioneered a series of law clinics, including one of the earliest law clinics in the country focused on challenging legal barriers to the reentry of ex-offenders.”

Two men arrested and charged with the attempted murder of a Chicago cop after shooting him during a traffic stop

In 2007, Ifill wrote the book, “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century.”

In 2013, Ifill was invited back to LDF to lead the organization as its seventh director-counsel:

“In that role, Ifill has increased the visibility and engagement of the organization in litigating cutting edge and urgent civil rights issues and elevating the organization’s decades-long leadership fighting voter suppression, inequity in education, and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.

“At critical moments during national political and civil rights crises Ifill’s voice and vision have powerfully influenced our national dialogue.

“Ifill is a frequent public commentator on racial justice issues, known for her fact-based, richly contextualized analysis of complex racial issues.

“She is a trusted and valued advisor to civic and community leaders, national civil rights colleagues, and business leaders.

“In 2020, Ifill was named one of Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year for her leadership of LDF, especially during a year that saw constant attacks on our democracy and nationwide protests against police violence in Black communities.

“Glamour called Ifill an ‘unrelenting champion with a stellar reputation among civil rights leaders.’ 

“Ifill was also named the 2020 Attorney of the Year by The American Lawyer, and was honored with a 2021 Spirit of Excellence Award by the American Bar Association.”

She has also written several academic articles for law journals as well as op-eds, including, “How to Change Policing in America,” which appeared in Slate on June 3, 2020.

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In this op-ed, Ifill outlined her views of “long-overdue measures that federal, state, and local leaders must implement” to address what she called a “crisis” of “violent, racist policing.” She wrote in part:

“Police officers are often described as law enforcement professionals. But professions have standards that govern member conduct, and membership can be revoked for standards violations.

“Currently, officers fired for misconduct and brutality against innocent civilians can be hired by other departments.

“We need to establish a national database of officers terminated for misconduct and a decertification system that makes them ineligible to work elsewhere as a police officer.”

Ifill complained about certain provisions in some police union contracts:

“Police union contracts often contain several provisions that shield officers from accountability for misconduct, such as those protecting officers from questioning for days after an incident—including a killing—and those limiting misconduct-related discipline.

“Many union contracts also protect officers who witness misconduct by fellow officers from any obligation to report or intervene, perpetuating the ‘blue wall of silence.’

“City leaders must expend the political capital necessary to renegotiate provisions that contribute to officer impunity for misconduct.”

Ifill also wrote that police funding needs to be “drastically” reduced:

“It is critical that our city’s mayors be prepared to change their approach to police department funding in a way that prioritizes community funding support and a reimagined conception of public safety.

“For example, movements to drastically reduce police funding are at the core of a revised vision of public safety that prioritizes social services, youth development, mental health, reentry support, and meaningful provisions for homeless individuals that strengthen community resources to proactively address underlying factors that can contribute to public safety concerns. 

“Most public safety issues and community conflicts do not require the intervention of an armed officer. It’s time to reimagine how we allocate our public safety dollars.”

Ifill criticized the Department of Justice and pushed for “an immediate review of all” of the agency’s grant funding to police departments: She wrote:

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids federal funding of state and local programs that engage in racial discrimination.

“Yet, despite providing over $2 billion in grant funding to police jurisdictions around the country, the Department of Justice has never fully enforced this provision.

“Minneapolis has received nearly $7 million in DOJ grants since 2009. There must be an immediate review of all DOJ grant funding to police departments to ensure compliance with Title VI.

“Federal funds should be withheld from departments that hire officers previously fired for misconduct or those with suspicious levels of in-custody deaths or assaults.

“The House and Senate Judiciary Committees have oversight power over the DOJ—and must hold it accountable.”

Ifill described qualified immunity as a “judge-made doctrine” that “must be urgently fixed by the courts” to limit its defense capability for police officers:

“Qualified immunity, a defense that shields officials from the unforeseeable consequences of their reasonable acts, has been interpreted by courts so expansively that it now provides near-impunity for police officers who engage in unconstitutional acts of violence.

“Civil rights legal groups, libertarian groups, and even some conservative judges oppose qualified immunity in its current form.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has several cert petitions pending before it right now requesting review of this judge-made doctrine—one that must be urgently fixed by the courts. But Congress can also act to limit this defense.”

Ifill ended her op-ed by suggesting that members of law enforcement are participants in “state-sanctioned killing.”

She wrote in part:

“Every police killing of an unarmed black man, woman, or child damages our country and wears away at our society’s fragile fabric.

“These killings are a tragedy for families and communities. But they are also a stain on our nation’s very soul.

“This time, it is critical that we place the onus on elected officials and policymakers to upend this system of state-sanctioned killing.”

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