General Assembly votes down bills aimed at ending qualified immunity for police in Virginia

General Assembly votes down bills aimed at ending qualified immunity for police in Virginia
Police on Capitol Square at dawn stand alongside fencing set up to corral attendees of a large pro-gun rally. (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

A Virginia House of Delegates panel voted down legislation Monday aimed at making it easier to sue police officers who abuse their authority.

The bill, proposed by Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, would have allowed people to sue in state court — an effort to side-step the judicial doctrine of “qualified immunity” that often shields police from misconduct lawsuits in federal court.

“It’s simply allowing those victims and their families to have a full day in court and not allow a bad actor to avoid responsibility by simply invoking a judge-created defense that effectively cuts off access to justice for many of these victims,” Bourne said.

Two Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, Dels. David Bulova of Fairfax and David Reid of Loudoun, joined Republicans in opposing the legislation. Neither spoke about the legislation during the meeting and did not respond to emails seeking comment Monday afternoon. Lawmakers in the Senate, where Democrats also hold a majority, voted down similar legislation in committee last week.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.