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Full court to review possible amendment to end qualified immunity

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(The Center Square) – An entire federal appellate court will decide whether a citizen-led proposed constitutional amendment to allow government officials to be sued can proceed.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost a full-court review of a ruling that overruled his decision to reject a ballot proposal summary for the proposed amendment, “Protecting Ohioans’ Constitutional Rights.”

Earlier, a three-judge panel ruled the state’s ballot initiative process likely violated the U.S. Constitution and ordered the proposed amendment and summary be sent to the Ballot Board.

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

The full court is expected to review the case May 30.

As previously reported by The Center Square, Yost rejected the proposed ballot amendment for misstatements.

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.

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.

The attorney general’s role in the ballot process is to determine whether a summary accurately represents what would be presented to voters.

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