Judicial Immunity

Date: June 1, 2011
Posted In: DLP Law



            Judge John was discussing the the value of a case while meeting with the parties’ attorneys before the case went to trial before him. A jury had not yet been selected in the case, but Judge John was adamant that he had very little respect for the Plaintiff\’s expert medical witness. Judge John stated that he would not allow his dog to be treated by that doctor since that doctor only knew how to get people hooked on narcotics and little else. When the Plaintiff\’s attorney advised his medical expert about the Judge\’s comments, the medical expert sought legal counsel to see whether he could sue the Judge for slander.

            Judges generally are shielded by what is called “judicial immunity” which makes them absolutely immune from any type of civil damage suits which are the result of the consequences of their activities as they preside as judges. In this case, while the Judge made very candid remarks about one of the expert witnesses, he was well within his rights to express his personal opinions regarding the quality of care as well as the credibility of one of the expert witnesses. This was done in the Judge\’s chambers and the Judge would not make such comments in front of a jury because that would be considered prejudicial.

            If the Judge ever made such comments before a jury and the Plaintiff lost the case or got an insufficient verdict, the Judge\’s comments may well be grounds for an Appellette Court to grant a new trial.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive.  Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column. 

Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.