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ICYMI: Ben & Jerry’s Co-Founders Join AFP-NM and Coalition to Support Qualified Immunity Reform

Mar 2, 2021 by AFP

SANTA FE, NM – Americans for Prosperity-New Mexico (AFP-NM) today hosted a press conference with Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s, local business leaders, current and former lawmakers, and other criminal justice advocates to urge support for HB 4.

HB 4 is a bill based on recommendations from the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission that would bar the use of the qualified immunity defense in state courts and make state agencies accountable when depriving citizens of their constitutional rights. AFP-NM also announced a statewide campaign yesterday educating New Mexicans on the bill and urging them to contact their lawmakers in support of the bill.

Click here to view the event.

Stephen Despin, AFP-NM’s Grassroots Engagement Director, issued the following remarks at the press conference:

“We at Americans for Prosperity work to elevate and amplify voices of Americans across the country who believe in a brighter future. That means showing the benefits of good policy, the harm of bad policy, and a better path forward that can bring people together.

One area that needs dire improvements is our criminal justice system. This is something people and organizations from across the political spectrum can agree on.

When someone acting in an official government capacity, such as a police officer, violates a citizen’s constitutional rights, certain laws and immunities protect them from liability, regardless of the damage they’ve caused to regular New Mexicans. This undermines individual rights, allows wrongdoers to escape accountability, and leaves victims with no way to address the injustice in court.

More than 70% of officers themselves say that poorly performing cops are not held accountable. So, it’s no wonder that trust has cratered between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.      

HB 4 would help right the wrongs so many others have experienced. For too long, government actors have used ignorance of the law as an excuse for willful violations of a person’s civil rights.

Have you ever heard the phrase “ignorance of the law is no excuse”? A citizen cannot walk into court and use the defense “I didn’t know it was illegal”. Why then, should government actors be able to essentially use this defense simply because our court hasn’t ruled on almost the exact same set of circumstances?

This bill would put an end to that – allowing New Mexicans that have had their constitutional rights violated to have their day in court. It opens that avenue to allow justice for victims and strengthens our state constitution.

The current status quo is unacceptable – which is one reason support for immunity reform is bipartisan.

We are honored to work with these amazing individuals, organizations, Speaker Egolf, Representative Louis, and other legislators who recognize that our criminal justice system needs more accountability when the government violates our rights.”

Background:

Qualified immunity is a court-created doctrine that shields the government, including law enforcement agencies, from legal accountability in civil court even when they violate someone’s constitutional rights.

More than 70 percent of officers themselves say that poorly performing cops are not held accountable.

AFP-NM State Director Burly Cain recently wrote an op-ed with the Innocence Project on the need for qualified immunity reform.

AFP-NM Speaks in Support of Reforming Qualified Immunity Laws, HB 4, 2/5/21

State House Passes Qualified Immunity Reform, 2/16/21