Eric Zuesse, originally posted at Strategic Culture
This article reports important news-events that are not being reported in America’s mainstream news-media and that are crucial for understanding both the murder of George Floyd and the current U.S. Presidential contest:
A black U.S. District Court Judge in Mississippi — one of America’s most bigoted-against-Blacks states — issued on August 4th a 72-page decision, Jamison v. McClendon, containing a plea for the U.S. Supreme Court to discontinue its imposition of police legal immunity when police are being accused of — while on the job — having violated Constitutionally guaranteed rights of American citizens (such as by shooting or killing innocent persons — such as George Floyd). Legally immune police is what defines a police state; and, so, this was a black judge’s request for the U.S. Supreme Court to end the existing police state it imposes in America — to end a police state that this judge attributed to (and which he documented to have been produced by) choices that the U.S. Supreme Court itself had made, and that only they therefore can possibly reverse.
His basic point was that nothing which allows a public official to violate the U.S. Constitution is Constitutional, and that therefore these U.S. Supreme Court decisions themselves violate the U.S. Constitution, and should therefore be reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which created this situation of legal immunity for police misconduct.
The decision by this judge, Carlton W. Reeves, asserted: “The Constitution says everyone is entitled to equal protection of the law — even at the hands of law enforcement. Over the decades, however, judges [at the U.S. Supreme Court] have invented a legal doctrine to protect law enforcement officers from having to face any consequences for wrongdoing. The doctrine is called ‘qualified immunity.’ In real life it operates like absolute immunity.” Because of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, he had to — in the particular case at hand that he was ruling on — grant a police officer’s “qualified immunity” from prosecution, regardless of what is Constitutional, or even justice in any meaningful sense. Implicitly, he is saying, in this ruling, that because of the existing legal tradition of stare decisis or adhering to existing juridical tradition — and especially of doing so when the prior rulings come from a higher court, most especially from the U.S. Supreme Court — he is required, in the present case, to issue a ruling that violates the U.S. Constitution itself. And so, he did that, he admits. This is an exceptionally bold ruling, far beyond what is normal. Basically, he says that in order for him not to be reversed on appeal, he had to rule against the U.S. Constitution, in the particular case that he was ruling on. He was pleading with the U.S. Supreme Court to end this, so that judges in the lower courts will be able to enforce — instead of compelled to violate — the Constitution.
This ruling by judge Reeves was extremely tactful, such as by its saying, “A review of our qualified immunity precedent makes clear that the Court [he pointedly didn’t say “the Supreme Court,” but that’s what he was actually referring to] has dispensed with any pretense of balancing competing values [meaning that only police are protected, their victims are not — the public is being jeopardized — by these decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court].” Then, Reeves went on to say, “Our courts [he was referring here to today’s U.S. Supreme Court] have shielded a police officer who shot a child while the officer was attempting to shoot the family dog.117.” That was a case which had been only recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, on June 15th, and which decision by this Supreme Court was ignored by the nation’s press, since that decision exposes how totalitarian this country has actually become. That Supreme Court decision, which (especially because of the recent headlines about the George Floyd murder case) should have been front-page news throughout the country, was instead hidden from the public by the ‘news’-media, though that decision — and the others which were similarly dismissed that day on the very same ground of “qualified immunity” of police officers — probably constituted the most important decision of the current Supreme Court term, and directly relate to the George Floyd case. That June 15th decision (now virtually a precedent protecting the murderer of George Floyd) ruled in a slew of cases that had been brought against police officers by their victims. This Supreme Court dismissed all of them, on the basis of this absurd court-precedent, which had been established in 1967, and which was further defined in 1982. It’s “qualified immunity”, and asserts that police are allowed to do anything to anyone unless Congress has passed a specific law against what they did, and in that law, has described and identified exactly the same circumstances that the claimant against the police is claiming had existed — each and every detail of it — in his/her specific case. It’s a Supreme-Court precedent, for a police state (unaccountable government-officials) to be ‘Constitutional’ in America, and this black judge in Mississippi was here essentially begging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the precedent that the 1967 Supreme Court had established (and which had been reaffirmed and worsened yet further, by the Supreme Court in 1982). It is horrific judge-made ‘law’ that is no real law but instead nothing but an extremely evil precedent, which today’s Supreme Court continues to impose; and judge Reeves expressed that he reluctantly is bound to follow it and therefore he pleads requesting the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse itself on this matter.
The June 15th U.S. Supreme Court ruling had been dissented from by only a single member of today’s U.S. Supreme Court, and that person happens also to be its only black member: Clarence Thomas. All of the white members reaffirmed this police-state precedent. Ironically, Justice Thomas, who along with judge Alito is the farthest-rightwing member of the U.S. Supreme Court, dissented against the police on that occasion. And, of course, all of the Democratic-Party appointees to this Court (the Court’s liberals) voted for the police, against the public, in that June 15th ruling. Today’s Democratic Party is liberal Jim Crow. (The Republicans are conservative Jim Crow, which is closer to the 19th Century variety.) The Democratic Party’s nominee for the Presidency, Joe Biden, was one of the U.S. Senate’s leading segregationists, and he was condemned for it by Senator Ted Kennedy, the NAACP and others (though the U.S. ‘news’-media hid — and continue to hide — that fact, too).
I had headlined on June 20th about this June 15th ruling, “U.S. Supreme Court Reaffirms U.S. Police State”. The Court in that decision had reaffirmed that America’s law-enforcement officers have this “qualified immunity” from prosecution, and so the Constitutional rights of Americans are effectively meaningless if the police abuse them. (As originally established in 1967, police have “qualified immunity” if they have acted “in good faith,” but since 1982 they posses this immunity even if they clearly did not.)
As the libertarian lawyer Jay Schweikert put this matter on June 15th: “the Supreme Court let stand an Eleventh Circuit decision granting immunity to a police officer who shot a ten–year–old child in the back of the knee, while repeatedly attempting to shoot a pet dog that wasn’t threatening anyone.” The officer who had been accused in that particular case, Corbitt v. Vickers, was Deputy Sheriff Michael Vickers, of Coffee County, Georgia. He had been chasing a suspect, who happened to cross into the yard of Amy Corbitt, who at that time happened to be chatting with another adult, Damion Stewart. One of her children was referred to in the case as “SDC.” Here is how the lower court ruling stated the incident:
At some point after Vickers and the other officers entered Corbitt’s yard, the officers “demanded all persons in the area, including the children, to get down on the ground.” An officer handcuffed Stewart and placed a gun at his back. … Then, “while the children were lying on the ground obeying [Vickers’s] orders … without necessity or any immediate threat or cause, [Vickers] discharged his firearm at the family pet named ‘Bruce’ twice.” The first shot missed, and Bruce (a dog) temporarily retreated under Corbitt’s home. No other efforts were made to restrain or subdue the dog, and no one appeared threatened by him. Eight or ten seconds after Vickers fired the first shot, the dog reappeared and was “approaching his owners,” when Vickers fired a second shot at the dog. This shot also missed the dog, but the bullet struck SDC in the back of his right knee.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled for Deputy Sheriff Michael Vickers. The case against Vickers was one in a batch of eight throughout the country challenging the existing court-precedent of “qualified immunity,” and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling dismissed all of them (“certeriori denied”) for the same reason: “qualified immunity” stands as-is — is valid as-is. (“Certeriori denied” means that at least five of the nine ‘Justices’ were satisfied with the existing legal precedents on the matter and with the appeals court’s application of those precedents to the given case — so: nothing gets changed. In this batch of 8 cases, 8 ‘Justices’ voted against accepting any of these 8 cases.) In each one of these cases, the appeals court had ruled in favor of the police officer, on the basis of his “qualified immunity.” And, so, 8 members of this Supreme Court approved of that. In other words: no matter how bad a police officer is, he has this legal immunity, and the only recourse that might be even possible is to reassign or maybe even fire him, if the Police Department decides to do so. Police officers are above the law, but they can be fired in some circumstances.
Here is how the Rutherford Institute, which backed all of these cases against the officers, phrased the officers’ argument in one of these cases:
Qualified immunity shielded the defendants’ actions from liability because Petitioner could not point to any factually identical case clearly establishing that law enforcement officials exceeded the scope of Petitioner’s consent to enter her home when they essentially destroyed her home. That reasoning sets an impossible standard. Because courts are free to advance to the ‘clearly established’ prong of the qualified immunity inquiry without first deciding threshold constitutional questions, it is unlikely that a body of case law with closely analogous factual circumstances will ever develop.
In other words: the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 that unless Congress will pass a new law which will specifically apply the 4th and the 14th Amendments so as to enable prosecution of law-enforcement officers who do the specific listed sorts of things that unequivocally are identified in such new statutes as being prohibited under those Amendments, America’s law-enforcement officers are free to continue doing these sorts of things and to avoid any sort of legal liability for having done them.
Attorney Schweikert headlined on June 15th “The Supreme Court’s Dereliction of Duty on Qualified Immunity”, and he wrote about the Court’s ruling:
It’s impossible to know for sure what motivated the Court to deny all of these petitions. But one possibility is that the Justices were looking closely at developments in Congress — where members of both the House and the Senate have introduced bills that would abolish qualified immunity — and decided to duck the question, hoping to pressure Congress to fix the Court’s mess. It is certainly encouraging that so many legislators have finally turned their attention to qualified immunity. But the mere fact that Congress can fix this mess doesn’t absolve the Supreme Court of its obligation to fix what it broke — the Court conjured qualified immunity out of nothing in the first place, and the Justices had both the authority and responsibility to correct their own blunders, no matter what happens in the legislature.
An evil that was introduced by the U.S. Supreme Court cannot be eliminated by the U.S. Congress and a good President. Nor can it be eliminated by successfully going through the lengthy and arduous process of passing a new Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. No matter what types of actions by law-enforcement officers would be specifically listed in any such new law or new Constitutional Amendment, it would fail. An arbitrary, basically evil, U.S. Supreme Court will always be able to place its imprimatur upon and validate new rationalizations for the police-state that they have been constructing in this country, especially after 9/11. (This particular evil, however, was introduced by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967, and has been and remains virtually ignored by the press since then, though it protects police officers in the George Floyd case and all other cases where police injure or kill innocent people. “Black Lives Matter” protesters get the news-coverage, but “qualified immunity” doesn’t, because this is where the rubber really hits the road and the power-structure would really be under threat — and they own the media, and the President, and Congress, who appoint and confirm new members to the U.S. Supreme Court.)
Congress and the President can’t fix this, even if they wanted to; they can’t fix a problem that they didn’t themselves create; but Congress and the President can condemn and shame the Court — which they never do. Better yet, they can impeach and remove all of the sitting ‘Justices’ and replace them with decent people — such as Carleton Reeves. But each of this Court’s members was placed there by the Congresses, and by the Presidents. It’s an extremely vicious circle, and no part of it can fix other parts of it. (A good example of this is Joe Biden himself, the U.S. Senate’s leading northern segregationist, who also was the head of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, whose approval was needed by each new member of the U.S. Supreme Court. America’s press hides the reality, so that it can continue — they’ve even hidden, from the public, the fact that Biden was the most influential segregationist in the Democratic Party.)
This isn’t a failure ONLY by the U.S. Supreme Court. It is instead an expression of the American system as it now exists, and which failure renders the U.S. Constitution itself almost meaningless, especially as regards the rights of the people and the obligations of federal officials at all levels in the government. There is no accountability; there is only blame. And, as in any authoritarian system, all blame goes downward, and all praise goes upward. That’s the reality. It’s totalitarianism. The U.S. Constitution is by now just a string of words. America’s Founders are dead, gone, and no longer really even an influence. That’s the reality. Pretending otherwise (such as Schweikert does, who urges Congress to pass news laws in order to ‘solve’ this problem) won’t fix anything. Drastic changes are needed. And the American public has proven itself not up to the challenge, still refuses to face the reality. This is system-failure. And the public simply refuses to face it. It’s a nation of myths. There are Republican Party myths, and there are Democratic Party myths, but the worst myths of all are the bipartisan ones, which protect the people in power, of all Parties. (Ultimately, the people in power in America are its billionaires. In effect, they own the Government.)
Judge Reeves happens to be a black Democrat in Mississippi (appointed in 2010 by the black Democrat, President Obama). He opened his decision by citing, as the reporter Madison Pauly phrased it, “19 killings of Black people at the hands of police before turning to the case before him, which involved a Black man, Clarence Jamison, who was subjected to a lengthy and humiliating traffic stop and search by a white police officer.” However, Reeves’s lengthy decision downplayed the racial aspect of the case before him, and even avoided the racial aspect in each of those 19 earlier cases, which he was citing against “qualified immunity” — the Supreme Court doctrine that Reeves was compelled to apply to the case-at-hand. Being tactful, Reeves didn’t want to overemphasize the fact that “qualified immunity” functions as a new type of Jim Crow law — no law at all, but only invented ‘law’, from the Supreme Court, that violates published statutes and even the U.S. Constitution. And, yet, the only judges who have forcefully dissented from “qualified immunity” are black ones, such as the Democrat Reeves, and the Republican Thomas. They don’t do it on account of their political Party, or even because of their ideology; they do it because they are Black, and because they have suffered or personally know people who suffer from the U.S. Government’s institutionalized (such as at the Supreme Court) racism — of which institutionalized racism, “qualified immunity” is a significant part.
In fact, Justice Reeves’s lengthy ruling is virtually a book about how gradually white racists — first, Democrats in the states of the Confederacy, and then increasingly in both Parties and throughout the entire country — have taken over and made ‘law’ from and by the Supreme Court, whenever the electorate itself isn’t willing to go quite that far into White-supremacy and vote for overtly racist candidates. It’s a brief, but fully documented, book about how the Confederacy has increasingly become the system of Government over the entirety of the United States (such as it is in regard to “qualified immunity” — a nominally non-racial precedent).
The August 4th ruling by Reeves was well discussed in an article by Matt Agorist, on August 16th, “Federal Judge Makes Radical Move to End Qualified Immunity for Bad Cops, Nationally”. A good description of the “qualified immunity” concept itself is here.
Currently, the phrase “American justice” is simply oxymoronic. Such a thing doesn’t exist, though some people are lucky and therefore think it does.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.