Can You File A Civil Lawsuit Against A Judge?

It's not unusual for people to feel like they got a raw deal from the judges who decided their legal cases. Some people even wonder if it's possible to sue judges whose unethical or illegal decisions or behavior resulted in litigants suffering losses or damages. Unfortunately, except for a few rare exceptions, it's not possible to bring a lawsuit against a court judge and here's why.

Judicial Immunity

The reason why judges cannot be sued is because the law affords them judicial immunity from civil suits. This means a judge cannot be held liable for any damage his or her conduct in court causes a litigant, even if that conduct was unethical or illegal. For instance, in the 1978 court case Stump v. Sparkman involving a young woman who sued a judge for allowing her mother to sterilize her, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined that judges enjoy immunity from liability even if their actions stemmed from or resulted in grave errors.

In general, a litigant's only course of action when a problem arises with a judge is to challenge the court's ruling or actions by appealing the case, requesting the judge recuse his or herself, or having the case moved to another court.

Exceptions to Judicial Immunity

While judicial immunity effectively protects a judge from almost all civil lawsuits, there are a few times when it may be possible to penetrate the shield. The first exception is when the judge is not acting in his or her official capacity. Essentially this means you can sue a judge if the person committed the injurious act while off the bench. For instance, you can sue a judge for your injuries if he hits you with his car while driving to a restaurant for lunch.

The second exception is if the judge acts beyond the scope of his or her jurisdiction. For example, a family court judge orders a litigant to spend time in jail for assaulting the other party. The judge could be sued for damages because sentencing for a criminal act falls in the jurisdiction of the criminal courts system not the family court system.

A third exception allows litigants to sue judges for committing fraud against the court. However, this exception only applies to federal court judges and cannot be used against state judges.

Another challenge you may have is finding an attorney to take your case. Because of the power judges wield in a courtroom, attorneys may be reluctant to take civil cases against judges for fear of reprisal. However, it's still best to consult with a lawyer about the facts of your particular circumstances to see if you have a viable case. For more information, contact Holth & Kollman LLC or a similar firm.

About Me

The Internet Makes Learning about Law Easier than Ever

Unlike many children growing up today, I am old enough to remember what life was like before the internet became popular! Many years ago, I ended up in a messy legal situation that stemmed from a simple misunderstanding. It turned out that I actually did not break the law, and finding that out in court was a great relief! While I had a great lawyer who helped me during that time, reading some legal information for myself about the laws surrounding my incident could have greatly eased my worries during the stressful time. I have since dedicated myself to learning more about the law, so I never have to deal with a legal mess again. I thought I would make a blog to share some legal knowledge I have acquired along with some general legal tips. I hope I can help many people!



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