AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities
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Defenses: Absolute Immunity
A man who served
20 years for sexual assault was then placed on probation. A state court
ruled that a sentencing order ordering probation after the 20-year sentence
had been illegal, because the sentencing court lacked authority to suspend
all of the additional 30-year sentence (5 years of which he would have
had to serve) authorized by state law to be imposed on him after the 20
years as a persistent felony offender because of a prior burglary conviction.
Strangely enough, in some respects, he now sought, on that basis, to collect
damages against correctional authorities who had released him from prison
years too early, placing him on probation. The federal appeals court rejected
this argument, holding that prison officials had absolute immunity for
liability for conduct dictated by facially valid court orders. Engebretson
v. Mahoney, #10-35626, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 10887 (9th Cir.).
The Westfall Act, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2679(b)(1) provides federal employees absolute immunity from tort claims for actions taken in the course of their official duties, and gives the Attorney General the power to certify that a federal employee sued for wrongful or negligent conduct was acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident. Once that certification takes place, the U.S. government is substituted as the defendant instead of the employee, and the lawsuit is then governed by the Federal Tort Claims Act. Additionally, if the lawsuit began in state court, the Westfall Act provides that it shall be removed to federal court, and renders the Attorney General's certification "conclusive" for purposes of the removal. Once the certification and removal take place, the federal court has the exclusive jurisdiction over the case, and cannot decide to send the lawsuit back to state court. In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court also ruled that certification can take place under the Westfall Act in instances where the federal employee sued asserts, and the Attorney General also concludes, that the incident alleged in the lawsuit never even took place. Osborn v. Haley, No. 05-593 2007 U.S. Lexis 1323. [N/R]
Members of Missouri parole board were entitled to absolute immunity in lawsuit by former inmate claiming that they violated his due process and equal protection rights in imposing conditions of parole, including participation in a treatment program for sex offenders, despite his claim that he had been improperly classified as a sex offender. Mayorga v. Missouri, No. 05-2762, 442 F.3d 1128 (8th Cir. 2006). [N/R]
Parole Board members were entitled to absolute immunity on female prisoner's claim that she was unlawfully incarcerated on her previously suspended sentence after they revoked her parole. Warden of prison was also entitled to absolute immunity when her reincarceration was based on facially valid orders of the trial court and Parole Board. Figg v. Russell, No. 05-1249, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 131 (8th Cir.). [2006 JB Feb]
District attorney was entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity on prisoner's claims that he was denied equal protection because the prosecutor failed to pursue criminal charges against the other prisoner who allegedly attacked him in a holding cell. Jones v. Baysinger, No. 04-16944, 135 Fed. Appx. 132 (9th Cir. 2005). [N/R]
A jail nurse who allegedly took a prisoner's blood without his consent was entitled to absolute immunity in the prisoner's federal civil rights lawsuit when she took the blood under a facially valid warrant authorizing her actions and seeking evidence for purposes of use in his criminal prosecution. Boatner v. Hinds, No. 05-1320, 137 Fed. Appx. 499 (3rd Cir. 2005). [N/R]
Parole officials were not entitled to absolute immunity for allegedly refusing to investigate a parolee's claim that the revocation of his probation had been overturned, and that therefore he should not be on parole. Dawson v. Newman, No. 04-2894, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 17487 (7th Cir.). [2005 JB Oct]
Psychologist was entitled to absolute immunity from liability for performing an evaluation of a prisoner for the purpose of assisting a parole board in making its parole determination. His assessment was an "adjudicative act." Williams v. Consovoy, No. 01-1809 (MLC), 333 F. Supp. 2d 297 (D.N.J. 2004). [N/R]
Parole Board official was entitled to absolute immunity in federal civil rights lawsuit over 65 day delay in scheduling parole revocation hearing (during which the plaintiff remained detained pending a hearing). Following the hearing, the hearing officer found no parole violation. Parole Board Chairman acted in a "quasi-judicial" capacity in determining when to schedule the hearing. Pate v. United States, 277 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2003). [N/R]
Parole officer was not entitled to absolute immunity on claim that he caused prisoner to be unlawfully jailed by charging him with the use of illegal drugs without first performing a drug test. McCammon v. Youngblood, #2010193, 853 So. 2d 249 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003). [N/R]
Court's order requiring prisoner to be kept in a particular facility to allow him to effectively pursue pending litigation did not entitle prison officials to absolute immunity from the inmate's claim of deliberate indifference to his confinement there which allegedly resulted in his being attacked by a cellmate for being a "snitch." Hamilton v. Leavy, #01-3062, 322 F.3d 776 (3rd Cir. 2003). [2003 JB Oct]
Hearing officer's alleged action of disclosing a prisoner's identity as a confidential informant without first consulting the warden, even if it exceeded her authority, could not be the basis for liability in the prisoner's federal civil rights lawsuit, as she was entitled to absolute immunity for discretionary actions taken in her official capacity. Williams v. McGinnis, #02-1336, 57 Fed. Appx. 662, 2003 U.S. App. Lexis 1879 (6th Cir. 2003). [N/R]
Prison disciplinary hearing officers were protected from inmate's federal civil rights lawsuit for damages by absolute judicial immunity for actions they took in the course of their official duties. Clemons v. Cook, No. 02-1724, 52 Fed. Appx. 762 (6th Cir. 2002). [2003 JB May]
Sheriff's investigator who prepared felony complaint and arrest report for county jail inmate accused of assaulting another prisoner was entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity from the prisoner's false arrest claim, even though he was not an employee of the prosecutor's office, but rather of the sheriff's department, because the decision to file a criminal complaint and seek an arrest warrant were quasi-judicial and prosecutorial in nature. Goncalves v. Reynolds, 198 F. Supp. 2d 273 (W.D.N.Y. 22001). [N/R]
Prosecutor was entitled to absolute immunity in lawsuit over alleged delay in transmitting to the jailer her decision to drop charges against a detainee, resulting in continued confinement when no charges against detainee were pending. Prosecutor was exercising prosecutorial functions in her actions. Neville v. Classic Gardens, 141 F. Supp. 2d 1377 (S.D. Ga. 2001). [N/R]
295:105 Correctional officers were entitled to summary judgment on prisoner's claim that they "covered up" an accident in which he was struck by a van driven by a correctional employee, when prisoner failed to present any evidence to oppose evidence they submitted; claims against them in an official capacity were claims against the state, barred by absolute immunity under the Alabama state constitution. Evans v. Cotton, #2981428, 770 So. 2d 620 (Ala. Civ. App. 2000).
285:131 Verbal judicial order that a man be kept in jail and signed out to work for a private construction company, where he worked without any pay, even if unlawful or erroneous, was a "facially valid" judicial order, so that county sheriff was entitled to absolute immunity for carrying it out. Mauldin v. Burnette, 89 F. Supp. 2d 1371 (M.D. Ga. 2000).
265:9 Parole board members were absolutely immune from liability in prisoner's lawsuit over their revocation of his parole; parole officer was entitled to qualified immunity; reasonable grounds existed for revocation of parole. Calvin v. Kansas Parole Board, 993 F.Supp. 1366 (D. Kan. 1998).
[N/R] Parole officer was not entitled to absolute immunity for recommending that a warrant be issued for parolee's arrest when it was alleged that he fabricated parole violation. Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105 (2nd Cir. 1998).
[N/R] Probation employees were entitled to absolute immunity from liability from claim that they submitted an inaccurate presentence report in connection with a prisoner's conviction. Hill v. Sciarrotta, #97-2161, 140 F.3d 210 (2nd Cir. 1998).
244:53 Parole officials were entitled to absolute immunity for delaying prisoner's release date, because their role in deciding whether his release plan was adequate was "quasi- judicial"; probation case manager, who made recommendations for delay, was not entitled to absolute immunity, but still acted reasonably in recommending delay in light of inadequacy of release plan submitted. Anton v. Getty, 78 F.3d 393 (8th Cir. 1996).
245:68 Members of Iowa county board of supervisors were entitled to absolute legislative immunity from prisoner's claim that their failure to provide more funding for jail or to inspect jail resulted in his being assaulted by another prisoner. Teague v. Mosley, 552 N.W.2d 646 (Iowa 1996).
229:4 New York prison hearing officer was not entitled to absolute immunity in suit over prison disciplinary hearing, federal appeals court rules, although qualified immunity may apply. Tulloch v. Coughlin, 50 F.3d 114 (2d Cir. 1995). [Cross- reference: Prisoner Discipline].
225:137 N.Y. correctional official who hears administrative appeals of inmate discipline in serious cases was not entitled to absolute "quasi-judicial" immunity, but rather, at most, qualified immunity. Young v. Selsky, 41 F.3d 47 (2nd Cir. 1994).
Wardens were entitled to absolute immunity for confining prisoner pursuant to valid court order despite prisoner's claim that he was wrongfully convicted and fact that prisoner's conviction was later overturned; parole board members were similarly absolutely immune for refusing parole requests. Patterson v. Von Riesen, 999 F.2d 1235 (8th Cir. 1993).
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