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mike ramos apd protest I-35 police
(Charlie L. Harper III)

As weeks of protest against police misconduct have raised questions about how best to increase accountability, the U.S. Supreme Court Monday chose not to review the qualified immunity doctrine, one of the foremost protections law enforcement officers have from punishment for misconduct.


The decision comes as a blow to these efforts but was not necessarily surprising, St. Edward's criminal justice professor Carsten Andresen said.

"The Supreme Court is very nervous about weighing in on anything that can have implications for how the police do their job," Andresen said. "I do think in the future, though, that this is going to be up for review. Lawyers are held responsible for the work they do, physicians are held responsible for the work they do … the legal community is going to start raising questions."

Qualified immunity defends government officials from being personally held liable for constitutional violations so long as they have not "violate[d] clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." As a result, police officers are often shielded from being sued, even in cases of excessive force, and a lack of cases overcoming this standard has made new lawsuits hard to win.

Questions about how to address the misconduct of police officers has been a topic of conversation around the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of an officer in Minneapolis. Just over a month before Floyd's death, an Austin officer fatally shot Michael Ramos as he attempted to flee in his car. Ramos' case spurred a similar push in Austin.

Without qualified immunity for police officers, or at least a lower bar for overcoming it, Ramos' family might be able to sue the officer that shot him, Christopher Taylor, for damages, Andresen said.

Hesitancy by the Supreme Court to take up qualified immunity, or any case that could interfere with the ability of law enforcement to do its job, will likely continue for a while, Andresen said. For the court to take up any major changes to law enforcement, Andresen said it would likely take a very compelling case, and even then it could be 10 years from when the case begins before the court makes a decision.

However, the recent ubiquity of videos capturing law enforcement misconduct could potentially speed things up or affect how the court makes its decision, Andresen said.

"I'm a criminal justice researcher. I've always known that there are these problems, but knowing these problems (exist) and then seeing an actual video, it's so much worse in some cases than I might have imagined."

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1923 Lake Austin mansion demolition request pitting preservationists and some neighbors against owner and city preservation office
Austin Monitor

By Jonathan Lee

The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.

The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'

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Freaky Floats and other Austin food & drink news
Austin Motel

What's new in Austin food & drink this week:

  • Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
  • Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
  • Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
  • Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
  • Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
  • Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
  • The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
  • Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
  • P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.