Supreme Court Sides With Police In Two Qualified Immunity Cases
By Bill Galluccio
October 18, 2021
The Supreme Court has sided with police officers in two cases relating to qualified immunity. The High Court issued two unsigned opinions reversing the decisions of lower courts that ruled the officers could be sued for their actions while responding to domestic violence calls.
The first case involved Officer Daniel Rivas-Villegas, who was accused of using excessive force during an arrest in 2016. He responded to a call that Ramon Cortesluna was threatening his girlfriend and her two daughters with a chainsaw. Officers convinced Cortesluna to drop the chainsaw and exit the home but noticed he still had a knife in his pocket.
Cortesluna ignored commands to put his hands up, and officers shot him with two bean bag rounds. As officers moved in to arrest him, Rivas-Villegas was accused of placing his knee on Cortesluna's back while another officer handcuffed him.
In the second case, Officers Josh Girdner and Brandon Vick were sued over the 2016 fatal shooting of Dominic Rollice. They were called to the home of his ex-wife after he refused to leave. When they arrived, Girdner and Vick tried to speak to Rollice, but he grabbed a hammer and threatened them. As Rollice entered what the officers believed was a throwing stance, they opened fire and killed him.
The Supreme Court's decision comes as Democrats have been trying to eliminate qualified immunity. The House of Representatives passed a police reform bill that would have prevented officers from claiming qualified immunity to shield themselves from civil lawsuits. The bill has not been brought to the floor in the Senate as talks between Republicans and Democrats collapsed last month.