Previously published on SSRN.


Qualified immunity protects officials from damages for constitutional violations unless they have violated "clearly established" rights. Local governments enjoy no immunity, but they may not be sued on a vicarious liability theory for constitutional violations committed by their employees. Critics of the current regime would overturn these rules in order to vindicate constitutional rights and deter violations.

This Article argues that across-the-board abolition of these limits on liability would be unwise as the costs would outweigh the benefits. In some contexts, however, exceptions may be justified. Much of the recent controversy surrounding qualified immunity involves suits in which police officers are sued for excessive force. The case for qualified immunity is weak in that context. But, in other contexts, the case for qualified immunity is much stronger, making calls for its complete abolition unwise.