A Firing Line Debate on Qualified Immunity
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Few issues divide judicial libertarians and conservatives as much as qualified immunity, the judicial doctrine that grants government officials 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." Civil liberties in all areas of American life, from free speech in the classroom to excessive force in policing, hinge on the Supreme Court's definition of qualified immunity. Jay Schweikert of the Cato Institute and Chris Walker of the Ohio State University will discuss the origins of qualified immunity, its real-world implications, and whether the Supreme Court should reconsider its jurisprudence in this sensitive area of constitutional rights.
Jay Schweikert is a research fellow with the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice. His research and advocacy focuses on accountability for prosecutors and law enforcement, plea bargaining, Sixth Amendment trial rights, and the provision and structuring of indigent defense. Before joining Cato, Schweikert spent four years doing civil and criminal litigation at Williams & Connolly LLP. He holds a JD from Harvard Law School, where he was an articles editor for the Harvard Law Review, and chaired the Harvard Federalist Society’s student colloquium program. Following law school, Schweikert clerked for Judge Diane Sykes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. He holds a BA in political science and economics from Yale University.
Christopher J. Walker is the John W. Bricker Professor of Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and director of the Moritz Washington, D.C., Summer Program. Professor Walker’s research focuses primarily on administrative law, regulation, and law and policy at the agency level. His publications have appeared in the California Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, Michigan Law Review, Stanford Law Review, and University of Pennsylvania Law Review, among others. Prior to joining the law faculty in 2012, Professor Walker clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He also worked for several years at a litigation boutique in Washington, D.C., as well as on the Civil Appellate Staff at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he represented federal agencies and defended federal regulations in a variety of contexts. During Winter Semester 2017, he served as an academic fellow on the Senate Judiciary Committee, working on the Gorsuch Supreme Court confirmation as well as on regulatory reform legislation for Senator Orrin Hatch.