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Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Photo: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday issued two rulings for separate cases in Oklahoma and California upholding a legal doctrine known as qualified immunity, which has been used to shield officers from lawsuits alleging excessive force.

Why it matters: Revising or eliminating qualified immunity has been a focus of police reform efforts and would force officers accused of excessive force to personally face civil penalties.

Of note: "The doctrine of qualified immunity shields officers from civil liability so long as their conduct 'does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known,'" the justices wrote in the Oklahoma ruling.

State of play: In both cases, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the accused police officers and defended their right to qualified immunity.

  • In one ruling, the court overturned a lower court's decision to allow a trial to proceed against officers Josh Girdner and Brandon Vick over the 2016 fatal shooting of a man brandishing a hammer in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, per Reuters.
  • In the other, the court overturned a lower court's denial of a request for qualified immunity for police officer Daniel Rivas-Villegas, accused in a lawsuit of using excessive force when handcuffing a suspect in Union City, California, in 2016, Reuters reported.
  • Both rulings were decided without oral arguments and with no public dissent among the justices, according to Reuters.

The bottom line: "These are not the actions of a Court that is likely to end or seriously reform qualified immunity. Reform is going to have to come from elsewhere," Chris Kemmitt, deputy director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, tweeted.

Go deeper

Nov 15, 2021 - Axios Denver

Denver refunds its police department

Data: Denver Department of Finance; Chart: Alayna Alvarez/Axios

A year and a half after calls to defund the police bellowed nationwide, mostly prompted by the murder of George Floyd, Denver is spending more money than ever on law enforcement.

Why it matters: The police overhaul movement largely lost steam as violent crime surges unfolded in Denver and across the U.S.

6 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems fear supply-chain blame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As supply-chain kinks drive up prices and disrupt holiday shopping, Democrats are scrambling to show action and deflect blame.

Why it matters: With their party controlling both the White House and Capitol, vulnerable Democrats worry supply-chain snafus will hurt them in next year's midterms.