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Michael P. Maslanka, assistant professor of law, UNT Dallas College of Law. Michael P. Maslanka, assistant professor of law, UNT Dallas College of Law.

Like a flare over a battlefield, the horrific killing of George Floyd is illuminating the fissures, cracks and outright bottomless chasms in our justice system. One pressing question: should qualified immunity as a defense to a constitutional violation be eliminated or reformed? The Justice in Policing Act of 2020, introduced in the House of Representatives on June 8, contemplates eliminating the defense. Three Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have recently dissented from the Court’s denial of cert petitions seeking to review the defense’s continued viability. And on June 12, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit took the extraordinary step of publishing an op-ed in The Washington Post, “As a judge, I have to follow the Supreme Court. (But) It should fix this mistake (of qualified immunity.)” He argues that the defense leads to a double injustice: citizens as victims and police as unaccountable perpetrators of the injustice.

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