Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Judicial Immunity

The immunity of a judge is the subject of the 3April 2009 article. A current case in Luzerne County is used as an example.


Anonymous said...

this is just another corrupt law made and voted on by the corrupt politicians and judical officals to protect themself's laws made by voted on and placed into the system by the corrupt people who seek to gain from the lies and corruption they spew into the public, that they are required and pledge to serve there best intrest.however when it comes to there best intrest that seem's to take presadence over what they have pledged to honor and uphold. just another excuse to protect themself. when are the excuses going to stop, and those responseable held accountable to the same laws that the rest of us are. it takes away the rights of those who were wrongfully accused or punished to legal action and there rights, so i guess the real question would be what is more important the right's giving to every american or those of a select few.

Anonymous said...

This article reminds me of a similar case where a judge put a young teenage girl into a work camp and she was forced to take a mind-altering anti-depressant psychotropic drug. Anyhow, this young girl slowly decended into a lethargic, doped up state to where her friends couldn`t even recognized her. All this because she got into a fight with another girl and slapped her.
The whole criminal justice system stinks. First of all, the system benefits greatly because of crime. The more crime, the more laws. The more laws, the more lawyers are needed.
In contrast, in the days of the judges mentioned in the Bible, the system prospered when there was righteousness.
Our judicial system of today would collapse under it`s own weight if the people lived righteous lives. Lawyers and judges would starve.
Laws are created, and more and more classes of criminals are created as well. Otherwise decent citizens are punished for victimless crime.
There is no justice today.

Jason Legg said...

The doctrine of judicial immunity is an ancient rule that has its roots in English common law. In other words, it is not a statutory creation, i.e., corrupt politicians did not create it. It existed long before our current politicians - and existed even before this country existed.

Judicial immunity applies only to civil liability - not criminal liability. This is the reason that the judges have been arrested and convicted for criminal violations. The question of civil liability is a different animal. There are really solid policy reasons behind the concept of judicial immunity -- and it really is a shield that protects good judges far more often than it is ever a bar to civil proceedings against corrupt judges.

As I noted in the column, I believe that there is a means to get around the judicial immunity in the context of the civil conspiracy that was plainly entered into outside the judicial function. My guess would be that the civil rights action will continue against the judges in their personal capacity, not their judicial capacity.

I think it is important to remember how often judges are subject to frivolous lawsuits that contend every imaginable violation. After clerking for 3 years in federal court, I can tell you that I saw countless frivolous lawsuits filed against judges - and judicial immunity provided the means to get rid of these proceedings without unnecessary delay.

The important thing to remember is that your rights are protected by the judicial system as a whole -- not a single judge, but also an appellate system that reviews the actions of teh individual judge, and a State Supreme Court to review the intermediate appellate level, and, when the state system fails, the federal system is there to correct any constitutional violations.

So, your rights are protected within the context of the system itself. Your right to collect monetary damages for alleged violations of your rights is a separate question to the question of whether your rights are protected and errors can be corrected. Judicial immunity only relates to collecting monetary damages, not whether your rights are not being protected.

Jason Legg said...

With reference to post regarding the entire criminal justice system stinking, I would only suggest that the person making the post needs to take a harder look at the system itself and how well it operates. There is a danger in taking isolated incidents and declaring them the rule, rather than the exception. Overall, the criminal justice system in America, while not perfect, is the best system known to mankind.

The system itself is actually designed more toward rehabilitation than punishment, especially when addressing the so-called "victimless crimes."

While the post did not identify the offense that are "victimless," I suspect this refers to things like drug offenses or DUI offenses, where society is considered the victim. The laws are designed to eliminate dangerous conduct that threatens all of us. With DUI offenses, we all generally understand the dangers of an intoxicated driver, even when there is no victim. In drug offenses, most people really view this as a victimless offense. The problem is that drugs end up causing more crimes as addicts need to generate revenue to support their drug habits. This is the reason we end up with robberies, burglaries, forgeries, identity thefts and other property crimes where there are victims.

Addictions are horrible things and cause countless victims, not just the user.

I would be interested in knowing what crimes are victimless. After 10 years as a prosecutor, my experience is that there are few, if any "victimless" crimes. There are times where only the defendant is a victim - but the defendant needs help and the system is designed to get the defendant that help.

There are never news stories on the everyday hard work that prosecutors and judges do -- and the stench of the bad apple always gets the attention of the public. We need to be careful as a society in making sweeping claims based upon isolated occurences - such characterization results in a gross injustice to those who work hard everyday to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about your latest article, not this one, about the Stevens Trila, does the prosecuter being a public defender in susquehanna co. who also works for other agency's in the county have to also have an open book policy? and what if they have witheld evidence in a hearing, or were aware of contradictory statements and did nothing; what then.

Jason Legg said...

I am confused by the last blog. A prosecutor cannot serve as a pubic defender at the same time in the same county. There are no prosecutors in Susquehanna County that also serve as public defenders.

I cannot speak as to what other agencies do in connection with discovery obligations. Every agency has different rules and requirements. I would suspect that some are more open than others depending upon the purpose of the agency.

Finally, as to the failure of a defense attorney to share information with a client, this is fairly common accusation that defendant's make. A prosecutor can only provide the information to the defense attorney -- not directly to the defendant. There are ethical rules that prohibit a prosecutor from talking directly to a represented defendant.

The question then becomes the nature of the information not disclosed to the defendant. A defendant may have entered a guilyu plea, and then sought to withdraw that plea after learning of the withheld information.

When this occurs, the defendant must allege that his or her defense counsel was ineffective, thereby denying the defendant a right to a fair trial. The court would look at this claim and decide whether the withheld evidence was truly so significant that the end result would have been different if the defendant had been aware of it. Generally speaking, there are very few items of "withheld" information that would negate an otherwise valid guilty plea or a trial.