It's not unusual for people to feel they have been wronged by a judge. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to sue a judge for damages because they have what's called judicial immunity. Essentially, the law prevents people from suing judges for decisions they make in court cases, even when there is evidence of misconduct (e.g. fraud or corruption). However, judicial immunity is not absolute. Here are two ways you may be able to pierce the shield and hold a judge accountable for his or her actions.
Administrative vs. Judicial Decisions
The most important thing to understand about judicial immunity is it only protects judges when they're acting in their official capacity. The immunity doesn't cover the judge when he or she is off the bench or when their decisions can be classified as administrative rather than judicial in nature.
For instance, a Texas Court of Appeals judge is facing a lawsuit as a result of an administrative decision she made in a death penalty case. She decided not to allow the court to remain open after normal hours so a defendant could file an appeal in his case. The defendant was executed as a result, and his wife sued the judge for damages. The case was first dismissed because it was believed the judge's decision was judicial. However, the judge later admitted her decision was administrative. Because of this admission, the plaintiff's case may be allowed to go forward because judicial immunity doesn't cover these types of decisions.
If you can prove the judge in your case made administrative decisions that harmed you, you may be able to pierce judicial immunity to recover damages.
Other Non-Judicial Acts
Although a judge may be acting in his or her official capacity, the official can still be held liable for actions that are considered non-judicial. For instance, if a judge leaves the bench and physically assaults the defendant, he or she can be sued for medical bills and other damages that result from that action. That's because beating up a defendant is not part of a judge's duty while on the bench.
Other actions that could be seen as non-judicial include:
- Bad mouthing the plaintiff or defendant to the media
- Making racist statements or other derogatory statements that harm the defendant's reputation
- Attempting to influence parties not associated with the case to turn against the defendant or plaintiff (e.g. persuading the plaintiff's boss to fire them)
It can be difficult to tell whether you have a viable case against a judge that may result in a positive outcome for you. It's best to consult with a personal injury attorney who can help you decide if you have a solid case.