WASHINGTON—Three days after George Floyd was killed in the custody of Minneapolis police, the Supreme Court’s justices met privately to consider a raft of long-pending appeals asking them to review a legal doctrine that makes it difficult for many victims of abusive policing to sue the perpetrators.

The timing was coincidence, and the court has taken no action on the petitions. But the multitude of cases—including one from Minneapolis—underscores the power of qualified immunity, a rule the Supreme Court recognized in 1967,…

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