In the US, prosecutors have absolute immunity from civil suits brought by defendants whom they have wronged. This has resulted in yet another manifestation of “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and has encouraged prosecutors to break the rules in pursuit of convictions.
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity has been doing fundamental work in addressing the issue of prosecutorial accountability, and they have just published a new white paper titled Qualified Immunity: Striking the Balance for Prosecutor Accountability. You can see that white paper here: Qualified-Immunity.
These excerpts from the paper – tracing the origins of absolute prosecutorial immunity in the US Supreme Court case of Imbler v. Pachtman:
“In 1976 the High Court handed down the long-awaited decision. Wary that prosecutors would be tempted to “shade” their prosecutorial decision-making under threat of a lawsuit, the Supreme Court held in Imbler v. Pachtman that prosecutors are unconditionally protected from civil liability as long as these actions were performed within the scope of their “advocative” duties.”
“Without a single dissenting vote, America’s highest court erected the doctrine of absolute prosecutorial immunity as the law of the land for prosecutors engaged in their advocative role.”
“By removing a key accountability mechanism and inducing an over-reliance on criminal proceedings and bar disciplinary actions, the Imbler decision unwittingly contributed to a culture of professional non-accountability. Without any meaningful prospect of enforcement, the ethical codes’ ability to accomplish the goals of punishment and deterrence has become, for all practical purposes, eviscerated.”