I have not said anything yet about the events unfolding. In a time when so many have lifted their voices, I feel reluctant to be yet another white person expressing outrage at the murder of Mr. Floyd.
I have devoted my career to the law, but so many citizens have lost faith in the law. We have all seen enough videos of unarmed African American boys and men killed by police officers that most Americans recognize we have a terrible problem. And in this last video, it is heartbreaking to see the other officers watch and assist the choking murder of a man plainly under control.
While many are marching for a wide variety of issues, I think we can achieve real change in this particular issue of police misconduct with a few modest changes in the law. We have tolerated a legal system that makes it very difficult to succeed in suing police officers for unwarranted violent acts. There are numerous legal hurdles that make it very difficult for us to get such cases to a jury. One doctrine is called “qualified immunity” and another concerns the role of “governmental immunity”.
Congress and the state legislatures must alter these doctrines to make lawsuits against rogue cops and the police departments that tolerate them easier to bring. That kind of reform of the civil legal system actually works. When NachtLaw and other law firms sue companies that allow harassment and discrimination, the companies find a way to reduce it dramatically: it is simply too expensive for them to openly tolerate it.
I love this country, and I believe we can make it better. Keep your faith in a better tomorrow.
Author, Attorney David Nacht