New Mexico Civil Rights Act headed for Senate ground

It creates an opportunity for people to sue the government, cities, counties, and school districts when their civil rights have been violated by a public employee.

It also eliminates the defense of qualified immunity.

“House Bill 4 would allow New Mexicans whose rights have been violated to spend their days in court,” said Brenda Boatman of Americans for Prosperity. “It removes the barrier of a doctrine created by a judge and strengthens the New Mexican Constitution.”

House Bill 4 makes it clear that no individual teacher, law enforcement officer, or other public employee can be sued. Only government agencies can be sued. Opponents believe more lawsuits could bankrupt school districts and local governments.

“Without defense of qualified immunity, this law will allow civil rights suits against educators based on discretionary decisions that do not meet intentional standards,” said Marty Esquibel, attorney for the New Mexico Public Schools Insurance Authority. “I believe this bill will increase the premiums for public schools with increased litigation.”

The original intent of the bill was to ensure that bad cops could be held accountable. While individual officials cannot be sued, law enforcement officials fear the bill will harm their recruiting efforts.

“This is not going to improve the police, it will not lead to troops being held accountable,” said Steve Hebbe, Farmington Police Chief. “This bill is going to harm small communities across New Mexico. It won’t achieve the basic goal we started when George Floyd was killed, which is to hold bad actors accountable.”

This bill limits litigation payouts to $ 2 million.

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