Advancing Police Accountability

Professor Joanna Schwartz's leading work on police misconduct and qualified immunity protections gains new resonance as tragic incidents spark protests and legislative action

Professor Joanna Schwartz has been a leading scholar in the field of police accountability for more than a decade. Her work has been cited widely, including by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and international demonstrations against excessive force, Schwartz’s work on qualified immunity — the doctrine that protects police officers and government officials from civil liability for on-the-job misconduct — is gaining traction among policymakers looking to change our culture of policing, and it is drawing intense interest from scholars and the media.

Schwartz has published four pieces of scholarship in 2020, written op-eds on police misconduct for The Washington Post and Politico, and been interviewed by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, CNN, Quartz and Vice, among others.

“In this extraordinary time,” Schwartz wrote June 3 in The Washington Post, “ending qualified immunity would be one of the most powerful first steps that the court or Congress could take to improve police accountability.”

Since she wrote “Myths and Mechanics of Deterrence: The Role of Lawsuits in Law Enforcement Decisionmaking” in UCLA Law Review in 2010, Schwartz has published 15 pieces of scholarship on police misconduct litigation and qualified immunity. These include the 2016 University of Chicago Legal Forum article “Who Can Police the Police?” and “How Qualified Immunity Fails,” which appeared in The Yale Law Journal in 2017. Her newest article, “After Qualified Immunity,” was published in Columbia Law Review.

Schwartz is also the co-author of the leading casebook Civil Procedure. In 2015 won UCLA's Distinguished Teaching Award, the university’s highest faculty honor.