chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
July 20, 2020

New ABA Legal Fact Check explores legal history, basis for police immunity in civil lawsuits

WASHINGTON, July 20, 2020 — A new ABA Legal Fact Check released today explores the legal and historical context of how state and local law enforcement officers gained broad legal immunity from civil suits during the past 40 years for actions performed on the job.

Nationally, the issue has flared in the wake of the May 25 homicide of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The current legal doctrine was created and expanded by the U.S. Supreme Court based on its interpretation of a post-Civil War statute. It gives police officers the legal right to pretrial dismissal of most civil suits arising out of their official conduct. For a plaintiff to prevail, he or she must show that conduct by an officer is materially similar to behavior that has been held to be unconstitutional by a prior court. Legislation to change the doctrine has been introduced in Congress.

ABA Legal Fact Check seeks to help the media and public find dependable answers and explanations to sometimes confusing legal questions and issues. The URL for the site is


The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews