Democrat Julie Gunnigle, who is running to be the next Maricopa County Attorney in Arizona, argued for qualified immunity through her attorney numerous times in a past misconduct case despite calling for the elimination of those protections for police officers.
Gunnigle previously worked as a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney in Illinois. It was reported by The Arizona Republic back in June 2020 that she was a defendant named in a lawsuit by Annabel Melongo.
Melongo was charged in 2006 for computer tampering pertaining to her work at the now non-existent Save-A-Life Foundation, and those charges were dismissed. She was charged once again for computer tampering in 2008. Melongo began recording conversations she had with the court and ended up being charged with eavesdropping and spend 20 months in jail before her trial. Melongo took her case all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, which determined that the eavesdropping law was unconstitutional, according to the Republic.
The lawsuit from Melongo accused Gunnigle and other defendants of misconduct. Melongo even said in a 2017 deposition that she unwillingly had a “complete hysterectomy” while receiving medical treatment during her time at Cook County Jail at Stroger Hospital.
Both parties ultimately reached a settlement of roughly $975,000, which was paid for by Cook County, and the claims against Gunnigle and the other defendants named were ultimately dismissed in November 2019.
Due to the scrutiny at the time, Gunnigle wrote this in a letter in June 2020:
In 2013, I was named as a defendant along with nearly a dozen other people and agencies in a suit based on these unfounded allegations. The suit was dismissed and cannot be brought again. There was no finding that I committed misconduct, and I paid nothing.
To set the record straight: I prosecuted a case involving an IT professional from Cameroon who had been terminated from a Chicago-area non-profit. To preserve her dignity, I will not be using her name here. Her boss at the non-profit alleged that after she was fired, she gained remote access into the non-profit’s computer system, altered files, and began forwarding the boss’s emails to herself. While that case was pending, the IT professional claimed that she was set up to take the fall for a multimillion-dollar fraud at the non-profit. Both the FBI and the Illinois Attorney General independently investigated and found these claims to be false.
Gunnigle also did not mention in her letter that the real reason why there was “no finding” of misconduct and that she “paid nothing” was because of the settlement, as liberal news website The Appeal reported in August 2020.
The Appeal wrote:
Gunnigle’s response also makes it seem the lawsuit was dismissed for being frivolous, when in reality it was dismissed only because Gunnigle and other defendants decided to settle the case in August 2019, after six years of litigation. And although she may have paid nothing personally, Cook County taxpayers ended up paying $975,963 to settle the suit, according to minutes from an October 2019 Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting.
However, it was unreported at the time that there was a consistent push for qualified immunity by Gunnigle and other defendants in the lawsuit itself.
A January 2019 memorandum argued that Gunngile and fellow state attorney were “entitled to immunity.”
In her extensive response to the Motion, Plaintiff fails to cite authority to defeat that County Defendants are entitled to absolute and qualified immunity. Plaintiff’s claims against ASAs Podlasek and Gunnigle should be dismissed with prejudice becausethey all arosesolely out of action they undertook as prosecutors assigned to the case and they were acting in their capacity as Assistant State’s Attorneys.
The push for qualified immunity started long before 2019, as court filings from 2015 and 2018 argued the same.
In February 2015, a “reply in support of defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint” argued that Melongo’s claims were “barred by absolute and qualified immunity.”
A February 2018 Answer by the defendants to the “plaintiff’s third amended complaint” once again raised “absolute prosecutorial immunity” as an affirmative defense.
Despite this, Gunnigle has repeatedly said she supports ending qualified immunity for law enforcement.
In an interview with “Pod Save the People” in September 2020, Gunnigle said:
“So, qualified immunity: My view is that it needs to end—and that is an unqualified statement. It absolutely needs to end. The question in my mind, though, is how to do it, because when you have something that originated at the federal court level—so, it’s a doctrine that is judicially decided—the only way to end it is to get some federal legislation on the books to do that, so I think a prosecutor’s role in that scenario is to be an advocate.”
She reaffirmed her stance a month later, right before her election with the late Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel.
“Absolutely. I think that’s a necessary first step toward establishing trust,” she told the Billie Fidlin of the Arizona Faith Network in October 2020.
“I would note how it has to be done, though, because qualified immunity is this doctrine that is invented out of whole cloth that came from our federal judiciary. So, when it comes to how we eliminate qualified immunity, it very much has to come either from the judiciary or from the federal government. That being said, prosecutors traditionally haven’t taken this particular stance and haven’t been able to inform Congress as efficiently as they should about why it’s so imperative that we take these steps. So, yes, totally in favor. Don’t have the power to do it, but I will be an advocate for eliminating qualified immunity.”
RedState reached out to Gunngile for comment via email and Twitter direct message on Friday morning, and she has not responded as of the time of publication.