Amanda Peters

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Plaintiffs who file claims under § 1983 of the Civil Rights Act encounter a strange blend of civil rights, tort, and criminal procedure laws. When civil rights plaintiffs sue officers and government agencies for violations of their Fourth Amendment rights, federal courts may cut off liability using qualified immunity, but they may also use a lesser-known defense of sorts called the independent intermediate doctrine. When courts permit officers to raise both qualified immunity and the doctrine, the two defensive theories provide officers something akin to absolute immunity. The doctrine treats judges, prosecutors, grand jurors, and fact finders as superseding agents who shield officers from liability once they find probable cause, even though these intermediaries’ actions are foreseeable. The doctrine is heavily relied upon in the Fifth Circuit, but every Circuit aside from the First has adopted it. The Supreme Court has rejected the doctrine because it ignores congressional intent and proximate cause principles that existed at the time the Civil Rights Act was created. The doctrine heavily favors law enforcement officer defendants and leaves civil rights plaintiffs without a path to trial or a remedy for their civil rights violations. This Article is the first to examine this doctrine, its history, its impact, and the serious confusion it has caused among federal circuit and district courts nationwide. The Article examines the many criticisms and detractors of the doctrine and suggests the only way to unify precedent, honor congressional intent, and properly review unlawful arrests, searches, and seizures is by using an analysis that includes proximate cause and the Fourth Amendment.