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Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Scam of Immunity Grows

Private Lawyers Working for Government Get Immunity, Court Says
The National Law Journal by Tony Mauro  -  April 18, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C - Private-practice lawyers and others engaged temporarily by government agencies are entitled to qualified immunity from being sued, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on April 17.  The decision is a relief for lawyers, who feared being exposed to liability for constitutional violations in cases in which the government employees with whom they worked would be immune. The American Bar Association in a brief warned that private attorneys would be "substantially deterred" from taking on government work if immunity was denied for those retained by government.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had denied immunity to California lawyer Steve Filarsky, who was sued along with city employees in Rialto, Calif., by firefighter Nicholas Delia for their actions in an employment dispute.  Filarsky, a partner at Filarsky & Watt in Manhattan Beach, had been retained by Rialto to help investigate the dispute. The Ninth Circuit upheld immunity for the full-time employees, but not for Filarsky, because of his non-employee status.  Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion in Filarksy v. Delia, 10-1018, asserting that immunity from civil rights suits under 42 U.S.C. 1983 "should not vary depending on whether an individual working for the government does so as a full-time employee, or on some other basis."  Justice Roberts pointed to the history of civil service, especially in the mid-1800s. Private citizens often performed government functions, he said.  "It was not unusual, for example, to see the owner of the local general store step behind a window in his shop to don his postman's hat," he wrote.  This blurring of lines was also common for government legal functions, Justice Roberts wrote, noting that Abraham Lincoln took on several appointments as a prosecutor while in private practice. Until 1853, when the job became full-time, Justice Roberts said, the U.S. attorney general was expected to maintain a private practice.  This history is relevant, he said, to discern the state of the common law regarding immunity at the time of passage of the civil rights statute in 1871.  "Examples of individuals receiving immunity for actions taken while engaged in public service on a temporary or occasional basis are as varied as the reach of government itself," Justice Roberts wrote.  The main reason for giving government employees immunity, namely avoiding "unwarranted timidity" in their actions, is also applicable to those retained temporarily, Justice Roberts wrote.  Lawyers for Delia had argued that competition among private lawyers would ensure that lawyers would still be willing to work for government agencies without immunity.  Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor wrote separate concurrences.  Justice Ginsburg stressed that qualified immunity can be overcome if the defendant "knew or should have known" that his conduct violated a clearly established constitutional right.  Justice Sotomayor cautioned against interpreting the decision broadly to cover all cases of private individuals doing government work.  Tony Mauro covers the U.S. Supreme Court for ALM, the Law Journal's parent. He can be contacted at tmauro@alm.com.

7 comments:

wondering said...

Why is it that certain people feel they have a need- or right- to NOT be held accountable for their actions?

Anonymous said...

This immunity stuff is a scam. What they should do is provide insurance that would protect them if they were acting legally and irresponsibility. But now they they have no incentive to do what they're supposed to be doing.

Crooks, all of them.

Anonymous said...

Where's immunity in the Constitution? Immunity is impunity to commit crime and evil.

Searching For Rule Of Law In America said...

it sounds as if everyone's getting upset over this decision... as if everyone is throwing up their hands in resignation...

in reality, this is nothing new... lets take second to take a closer look at what the facts are...

1 - Specifically, it protects government officials from lawsuits alleging that they violated plaintiffs’ rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right.

2 - Qualified immunity only applies to suits against government officials as individuals, not suits against the government for damages caused by the officials’ actions.

3 - Qualified immunity is not immunity from having to pay money damages, but rather immunity from having to go through the costs of a trial at all.

it is not, by any stretch of the term, absolute immunity (if such a thing actually exists at all)...

very little has changed... the ruling seems only to expand the qualified immunity defense to non government emplyees working for the government...

very little has has changed...

if you have a valid complaint, you still have the same cause of action that you had before this... and you still have the same daunting job ahead of you...

Michael A. Hense -Searching For Rule Of Law In America

Anonymous said...

Exactly where is it in the US Constitution that says that anyone is exempt from any law in the US?

Any sort of "immunity" allows those individuals to commit any crime and get away with it. This seems particularly egregious when it is given to individuals who are paid by the citizens of this country and have taken specific, sworn oaths to uphold all the laws and constitutions in the US.

Everyone should get upset by this decision. It's just one more step in stripping everyone of the rights that the US Constitution is supposed to provide.

Anonymous said...

Part of the Scam though is by the Courts itself.

Its just one of the many weapons in the arsenal to "dump" cases and protect the favored ones.

What happens is the Judge comes in and instead of doing individual, specific, detailed factual analysis after discovery, depositions, etc, will just Wave the Magic Wand of Immunity and Dismiss the case leaving the litigants to face the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals and more money and usually not much more in the way of actual Judicial Determination and Deliberation.

Sound familiar? Judge Shira Scheindlin and the Related cases?

upstate watcher

Anonymous said...

These bums make up the rules to cover for their fellow attorneys. The SS is in charge and will brook no logic. You will go to the camps if you continue!

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