New Mexico | Governor signs Civil Rights Act into law; banning qualified immunity from government officials

The New Mexico Civil Rights Act, 2021 has been signed by the Governor of New Mexico into law. The Act seeks to strengthen the protection of New Mexicans’ rights, privileges and immunities as provided for in the bill of rights of the state constitution. New Mexico is now the second state in the country to ban qualified immunity following Colorado.

The measure also allows a person to sue any public body for e.g., the state, city or county—or its employees for a civil rights violation under the New Mexico Constitution. Further, it prohibits the usage of qualified immunity as a defence for depriving a person of those constitutional civil rights. The Act creates a legal remedy for New Mexicans to bring claims for damages in state court against police officers and other public officials who violate the rights guaranteed to them under the New Mexico Constitution. It ensures the prohibition of the use of “qualified immunity,” a federal legal doctrine that makes it nearly impossible for individuals to sue public officials by requiring proof that they violated the established law.

The legislation allows people to sue their local governments up to $2 million if their civil rights are violated. The following statement has been released by the Governor of New Mexico, Lujan Grisham:

“New Mexicans are guaranteed certain rights by our state constitution. Those rights are sacred, and the constitutional document providing for them is the basis of all we are privileged to do as public servants of the people of this great state. Indeed, good public servants work tirelessly every single day to protect those rights, to ensure them, to safeguard New Mexicans. But when violations do occur, we as Americans know too well that the victims are disproportionately people of color, and that there are too often roadblocks to fighting for those inalienable rights in a court of law. In response to some of the commentary surrounding this measure, I will say: This is not an anti-police bill. This bill does not endanger any first responder or public servant – so long as they conduct themselves professionally within the bounds of our constitution and with a deep and active respect for the sacred rights it guarantees all of us as New Mexicans.”

 

*Tanvi Singh, Editorial Assistant has put this story together. 

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