Joanna Schwartz Profile picture
Prof. @UCLA_Law researching/teaching abt civil procedure, civil rights litigation & police accountability.
𝗚𝗼𝗻𝘇𝗼𝗩𝗲𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗮𝘀🛡 Profile picture 2 subscribed
Oct 9, 2023 9 tweets 2 min read
There is a lot to hate about qualified immunity. But here’s one reason that often escapes notice: in some parts of the country, only “published” decisions can clearly establish the law. And in those same parts of the country, more than 90% of decisions are “unpublished.” A 🧵1/9 In @ShieldedBook I tell the story of Onree Norris. A SWAT team broke down the doors of his home & held him at gunpoint. The warrant called for a search of the house next door. Norris’s house looked nothing like the target house, and he was twice as old as the suspect. 2/9
Mar 12, 2023 5 tweets 3 min read
East Cleveland's made news because 16 of its 40 police officers were indicted for excessive force captured on video btw 2018-22. In response, @SIfill_ tweeted: "Not. Bad. Apples." She's so right. Especially because egregious misconduct by E. Cleveland officers is nothing new.🧵 In 2014, E. Cleveland officers assaulted Arnold Black & locked him in a supply closet. He won a $50 million verdict against the city that the court of appeals upheld, finding the dep't "had an unwritten custom & practice of using violence and arrests to intimidate people.” 2/5
Jul 16, 2022 11 tweets 4 min read
280 characters aren’t nearly enough to explain what is wrong with this article that suggests the officers in Uvalde might have hesitated because qualified immunity protections in the Fifth Circuit are too weak. So that’s why I have written this 🧵… The notion that the Uvalde officers were worried about the threat of being sued when deciding whether to confront the shooter has no basis in reality. Studies have repeatedly found that the threat of suit is not on most officers’ minds when doing their jobs…
Jun 9, 2021 5 tweets 1 min read
Qualified immunity strikes again. In this case, there actually was a prior court decision holding similar conduct unconstitutional - but the court hadn’t “published” the opinion - even tho it was publicly available - so it couldn’t clearly establish the law. For those not in the weeds with this stuff, when courts issue a decision they can indicate whether it is “for publication.” If so, it’s included in actual books of cases-where, long ago, people went to read about them. But now, decisions-including “unpublished ones”-are online.
May 2, 2021 7 tweets 2 min read
Thrilled that my newest article, "Qualified Immunity's Boldest Lie" is now in print. Many many thanks to the fabulous @UChiLRev editors who worked on the article.…

What IS qualified immunity's boldest lie? Glad you asked. (Thread.) To defeat QI, plaintiffs have to find prior cases with virtually identical facts. The SCT says these factually analogous cases are necessary to notify officers about the illegality of their conduct. But officers aren't actually educated about the facts and holdings of most cases.
Apr 21, 2021 11 tweets 2 min read
We don’t have specifics, but sounds like Republican Senator Tim Scott is proposing to end qualified immunity and make cities, not officers, liable. This is HUGE folks. Let me explain why.… Qualified immunity currently slams the courthouse doors against plaintiffs unless they can find a prior court case with virtually identical facts. It increases the costs and complexity of civil rights litigation. It obscures the contours of the Constitution. It is bad bad bad.
Feb 22, 2021 8 tweets 2 min read
The Supreme Court just made an important and promising shift on qualified immunity in a case called McCoy v. Alamu- although they did it so quietly that you wouldn't notice if you didn't look closely. Here's the scoop, in a thread... In a case brought by @RightsBehind, a Texas corrections officer beat a prisoner without provocation. The district court granted the officer QI and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.…
Feb 12, 2021 4 tweets 2 min read
Have you ever wondered what qualified immunity is or what it does or where it came from? Now's the time to get your questions answered. #npap #PoliceAccountability Here's a little history. Qualified immunity was created by the Supreme Court in 1967, to shield police and other government officers from damages liability when they acted in "good faith." But in 1982, the Court said it should protect officers unless...
Nov 2, 2020 9 tweets 2 min read
Today’s summary reversal in Taylor v. Riojas is a big deal. In it, SCOTUS breathed new life into the notion that qualified immunity should be denied if the constitutional violation is obvious - a ruling the Court made almost 20 years ago but has ignored until today. 1/8 One of the most damaging aspects of qualified immunity is the notion that plaintiff must find a prior court decision with virtually identical facts to establish officers were on notice of their misconduct. It’s a nearly impossible standard to meet - and ridiculous to boot...2/8
Jun 17, 2020 7 tweets 4 min read
I appreciate @danepps reference to my research in his @nytimes oped. I agree that abolishing qi is not a cure-all. But I disagree with the conclusion that eliminating qi is "unlikely to alter police behavior." Here's why. 1/7… I agree that many other factors--not just qi--limit lawsuits' power & have studied some that Epps describes-officers are usually indemnified, police budgets are insulated from lawsuit costs, & there are other barriers to relief, including the Court's 4th Amendment standards. 2/7
Jun 1, 2020 6 tweets 2 min read
It's high time to #EndQualifiedImmunity. But what impact would ending qi have? Some say qi is responsible for the horrors of the past weeks, some say other barriers to accountability mean little would change. I say both are somewhat right. This thread explains why. 1/6 Ending qi would mean an end to court opinions that send the message that officers can violate peoples' rights without consequence. Ending qi would also reduce the costs, risks, and complexity of civil rights litigation, so might encourage more attorneys to bring these cases. 2/6