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Proposed amendment to end immunity for government officials rejected

By J.D. Davidson
The Center Square

A proposed constitutional amendment that would limit immunity for public officials was rejected for misstatements, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said.

The proposed amendment would repeal constitutional immunities and defenses in cases alleging civil rights violations by governmental units and public employees.

In his rejection letter, Yost said, “We identified omissions and misstatements that would mislead a potential signer as to the actual scope and effect of the proposed amendment.”

The Ohio Coalition to End Qualified Immunity said immunity has led to a lack of accountability for law enforcement officers and has stopped citizens from “seeking justice” for the misconduct of rogue officers.

Qualified immunity protects state and local officials, law enforcement officers, teachers, and other government employees from being sued for civil liability unless the official violated a clearly established constitutional right.

If the proposed amendment gets approval from Yost, the secretary of state weighs in on ballot issues before the proposal goes to the Legislature, which has to either take its action or allow the proposal to go to voters.

The effort to remove immunity from Ohio government officials has been ongoing for several years.

In February 2023, the group began the process of ending what it calls a legal loophole – qualified immunity – by putting the proposed amendment before voters on the 2024 general election ballot. Similar measures have been turned away for various reasons twice previously.

In 2021, House Democrats introduced legislation to end qualified immunity as part of a package of bills dealing with police reform. It failed to pass the General Assembly.

In December 2022, Yost also rejected a petition for a proposed ballot amendment seeking to end qualified immunity, saying the summary contained a material omission and the title was misleading.

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