Suing Judges: A Study of Judicial Immunity

By in Torts on June 27, 2013

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When a person is injured by the act of someone else one response is to seek redress in the courts. When the person to be sued happens to be a judge, a number of potentially insurmountable obstacles often appear. This book presents an in-depth study of the substantive, procedural and theoretical issues that arise when a judge is sued. Drawn mainly from English and American Federal case law, the study also incorporates Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand case law.

One thought on “Suing Judges: A Study of Judicial Immunity

  1. Richard A. Green
    2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Not For Lawyers Only, June 22, 2003
    Richard A. Green (Loma Linda, CA) –

    This review is from: Suing Judges: A Study of Judicial Immunity (Hardcover)

    Abimbola A. Olowofoyeku
    Oxford University Press

    “Suing Judges”, unsurprisingly, is written for legal scholars and attorneys. But it is readily understood by us non-lawyer-types.
    Although Nigerian and educated in Britain, Abimbola Olowofowyeku shows a keen understanding of American jurisprudence. As shown by Akhil A. Amar’s “Bill of Rights,” an author from a different social and legal tradition can often provide fresh insights that escape the natives. Reverse cultural imperialism, maybe?
    Most citizens–including attorneys–understandably assume that judges simply cannot be sued. After all, it was just six years ago that a woman successfully sued a judge–but only for �sexual harassment� and only after his �honor” had been impeached, convicted, and removed from office for �in-chambers� rape of her and at least four other women [United States v. Lanier, 117 S.Ct. 1219, 1997]. Yes, Virginia, there is a way to pierce the sanctity of the judicial chambers. But only under the most outrageous of circumstances.
    Cynics might argue that such legal protections do not disinterestedly evolve. Judges do write the case law. And Olowofowyeku cites the cases that seemingly provide such invincible protections.
    But the author also shows the absurdity of bestowing such omnipotence on anyone in a democracy. Police, for example, are literally “under the gun” as well as the most visible targets for lawsuits. Nonetheless, they are not so favored with anything approaching blanket immunity–they can be sued and fired for professional misconduct.
    Public servants, admittedly, require some personal protections against the merely disgruntled when administering public policy. But granting absolute immunity to any official is simply a case of civic overkill. A fairer approach is to establish “limited” immunities.
    That�s why police are legally protected, in the line of duty, when they use reasonable and necessary force. Essential professionals, such as physicians, are �immunized� by �Good Samaritan� statutes and caps on pain and suffering verdicts for malpractice.
    Olowofowyeku then cites evolving law chipping away at absolute immunity for judges. At the very least, injunctive relief (i.e., petitioning a higher court to order an inferior judge to obey the law) can be granted against a judge’s actions. Furthermore, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly permits recovery of legal costs from judges who violate one’s Civil Rights.
    In fact, most European nations ( particularly Belgium) permit judges to be sued for damages caused by their decisions–although requiring a higher standard of proof.
    If “Suing Judges” becomes a best seller, American jurisprudence will, hopefully, increasingly reflect the European model–and simple justice.

    Reviewed by: Richard A. Green

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