Kelsay v. Ernst: In a Time of National Public Outrage Over a Lack of Police Accountability, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit's Botched Qualified Immunity Analysis Highlights Serious Problems with the Doctrine as a Whole
McCauley, Addison C.
INTRODUCTION|This Note will first recount the pertinent facts and holding in Kelsay. This Note will then review the development of qualified immunity through United States Supreme Court precedent and review Eighth Circuit and other United States Court of Appeals precedent regarding qualified immunity from claims of excessive force. Next, this Note will argue the Eighth Circuit’s analysis in Kelsay violated the applicable standard of review by failing to grant Kelsay all reasonable inferences and by assuming facts blatantly contradicted by undisputed facts in the record. This Note will then demonstrate that, by violating the standard of review, the Eighth Circuit failed to properly determine the contours of the constitutional right allegedly violated and consequently misapplied Eighth Circuit precedent in determining Deputy Ernst’s conduct was not clearly established as unconstitutional. This Note will then argue the Eighth Circuit’s analysis contradicted assurances provided by the Court in Pearson v. Callahan by failing to answer whether or not Deputy Ernst’s conduct was unconstitutional. Next, this Note will demonstrate the Court failed to resolve a circuit split by denying Kelsay’s petition for a writ of certiorari. Finally, this Note will conclude the Eighth Circuit erred in determining Deputy Ernst was entitled to qualified immunity and will provide suggestions to the Court for potential reform of the qualified immunity doctrine.
Creighton University School of Law