Written by ap-government-fall-2011-181School: Central York High School
Class: AP Government Fall 2011
Everyone (Doesn’t) Get Her Day in Court
The Supreme Court case of Briscoe v. LaHue answered the question of whether criminal defendants may sue a police officer under Section 1983 when the officer lies under oath. Briscoe was charged with burglary but he stated that LaHue had lied in his testimony. LaHue claimed that, as a witness testifying at the trial he was absolutely immune from any lawsuit. The Supreme Court agreed stating that non-government witnesses are granted absolute immunity under Section 1983 and a government official is no different than a non-official when he testifies at a trial. Even though this case answered a critical question dealing with Section 1983, it also brought up some serious concerns.
The Supreme Court Justices expressed concern about allowing criminal defendants to sue the police officer who testified at a trial and how it could open the door to a flood of lawsuits by defendants who had lost their case. This brings up a series of serious question about our court system. Is it worth denying a small number of people their right to a fair trial because a large number of people might clog the court system? On the other hand, is it fair to those with legitimate appeals to have to wait while the courts sort through the non-valid cases?
I am a firm believer that everyone should have the right to a fair trial. Therefore I came up with an efficient method of sorting through the large numbers of appeals. The higher level courts should select a panel with the sole purpose of determining if the appeals are legitimate or not. This way everyone is having their case reviewed by elected government officials and the process of sorting through cases will run much more smoothly.