by Demosthenes Lorandos, Ph.D., J.D.
This article was written to address the immunity claims made by those hired, elected or appointed to serve children in our legal system when they are sued for outrageous acts. This article argues that since the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (“The Mondale Act”) false claims of child abuse have wrecked havoc on American families. In order to understand the claims for immunity made by doctors, social workers and attorneys who mis-serve children, this article provides a discussion of immunity and its operation in our law. Following a historical overview, this article describes the various claims to immunity from suit made by government officials, prosecutors, law enforcement personnel, guardians, appointed counsel, social workers and various private parties. For the purpose of illustrating how immunity claims may be addressed, this article presents an actual account of a Michigan case concerning issues of Guardian ad Litem immunity. It is the express position of this author that people who chose to aide or represent children must do so competently and professionally or not at all.
Since the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (“The Mondale Act”) false claims of child abuse have wrecked havoc on American families.
Certainly it is true that children are starved, beaten, raped and killed every day. They deserve protection. The purpose of this article is to address the immunity claims made by those hired, elected or appointed to serve children in our legal system. In order to understand the claims for immunity made by doctors, social workers and attorneys who mis-serve children, this article will begin with a brief discussion of immunity and its operation in our law.
The second part of this article will focus on the various claims to immunity from suit made by government officials, prosecutors, law enforcement personnel, guardians, appointed counsel, social workers and various private parties. The last portion of this work will present an actual account of a ground breaking case being fought through the courts of Michigan on the issue of Guardian ad Litem immunity from suit for negligence, incompetence and intentional torts. It is the express position of this author that people who chose to aide or represent children must do so competently and professionally or not at all.
A. JUDICIAL IMMUNITY
The concept of judicial immunity developed in our law from early Anglo-Saxon origins. As Professor Block informs:
“Under Anglo-Saxon law of the tenth and eleventh centuries, a judgment (doom) could be impeached by charging the official proposing the judgment (the doomsman) with falsehood. This proceeding, known as “forsaking the doom”, developed into the complaint of “false judgment”, whereby a dissatisfied litigant obtained a writ commanding the challenged court to cause a record of its proceedings to be made and brought before the court of the litigant’s superior lord. The complainant could accept the court’s record and thus confine the issues to errors of law. But this record could be challenged by anyone willing to engage in physical combat with the champions of the challenged court. If the challenge succeeded, the lower court’s judgment was annulled and the court was amerced.” Block, Stump v Sparkman and the History of Judicial Immunity, 4980 Duke L.J. 879, 881 (l980).
Displeased with trial by combat, law evolved in England, and in the early l7th century Sir Edward Coke in Floyd and Barker, 77 Eng. Rep. 1305 (Star Chamber l607), and The Case of the Marshalsea, 77 Eng. Rep. 1027 (Star Chamber l6l2), laid out the foundation for the doctrine of judicial immunity. In Barker, Coke established the immunity of a judge “for anything done by him as a judge” 77 Eng. Rep. at l307. It seems that Judge Barker convicted William Price of murder and sentenced him to death. After the sheriff executed Mr. Price, one Mr. Floyd brought charges against Judge Barker for conspiracy. Sir Edward Coke’s decision gave immunity from suit to all of those involved in the prosecution of Price, made it quite clear that Judge Barker’s immunity was absolute. In so doing, Coke identified four (4) grounds in public policy for judicial immunity. First, he indicated a necessity for a finality of judgment. Second, Coke offered that immunity is necessary to maintain judicial independence. Third, Coke held for the independence of thought and freedom from manipulation that immunity would provide, and lastly, Coke offered that in order to engender respect and confidence in the judiciary and the government, immunity for judicial acts was necessary.
Some five years after declaring immunity for judicial acts, Lord Coke modified his doctrine in The Case of the Marshalsea, 77 Eng. Rep. 1027 (Star Chambers l6l2). In Marshalsea, Coke set forth a jurisdictional limitation on the doctrine of judicial immunity. For immunity to apply said Coke, not only did the act have to be judicial in nature, but the judge must have had subject matter jurisdiction over the cause for which he acted. In Marshalsea, a judge presiding over a case in assumpsit found against the defendant. This defendant’s surety was jailed until the judgment was paid. The surety brought an action against the judge for his imprisonment and the judge defended by claiming immunity. Rejecting the immunity claim, Coke held that the judge had no jurisdiction over actions in assumpsit and thus the proceedings were void. As Coke described it:
“[W]hen a Court has (a) jurisdiction of the cause, and proceeds inverso ordine or erroneously, there the party who sues, or the officer or minister of the Court who executes the precept or process of the Court, no action lies against them. But (b) when the Court has not jurisdiction of the cause, there the whole proceeding is [before a person who is not a judge], and actions will lie against them without any regard of the precept or process…” 77 Eng. Rep. at 1038-41.
Clearly, this laid the foundation for judicial immunity. Coke established requirements for its application, restricting immunity to judicial acts made within the judge’s jurisdiction. In addition, he set forth a policy underlying the doctrine: (1) insuring the finality of judgment; (2) protecting judicial independence; (3) avoiding continuous attacks on sincere and conscientious judges; and (4) maintaining respect for the judiciary and the government.
To read the remaining portion of this article on http://familyrights.us/bin/white_papers-articles/immunity_broken.htm