Quasi-judicial immunity

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Quasi-judicial immunity extends judicial immunity to persons who are integral parts of the judicial process, such as prosecutors, court-appointed mediators and others lawfully acting or assisting in a judicial role.

It is an unsettled question whether equitable relief may be granted under Section 1983 despite "quasi-judicial" immunity. Compare, e.g., Law Students Civil Rights Research Council v. Wadmond, 299 F. Supp. 117, 123 (S.D.N.Y. 1969) (three-judge court), aff'd on other grounds, 401 U.S. 154, 27 L. Ed. 2d 749, 91 S. Ct. 720 (1971) (Friendly, J.) ("We fail to perceive what interest would be served by holding federal courts to be powerless to enjoin state officers [from violating plaintiffs' civil rights] simply because some of them are robed and others have been appointed by these who are.") with Conover v. Montemuro, 477 F.2d 1073, 1094 (3d Cir. 1973) (on rehearing en banc) (Adams, J.) expressly reserving the question "whether the Montemuro, 477 F.2d 1073, 1094 (3d Cir. 1973) (on rehearing en judicial immunity doctrine is an absolute bar, a partial bar, or no bar at all in § 1983 suits for injunctive relief against state court judges").

Note that "injunctive relief looks to the future." Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 485, 14 L. Ed. 2d 22, 85 S. Ct. 1116 (1965). In determining whether an applicant for injunctive relief has sufficiently demonstrated a threat of future harm, moreover, a court should bear in mind that such relief

"may be unleashed only against conditions generating a presently existing actual threat; it may not be used simply to eliminate a possibility of a remote future injury, or a future invasion of rights ...."

Holiday Inns of America, Inc. v. B & B Corp., 409 F.2d 614, 618 (3d Cir. 1969).

Quasi-judicial immunity has increasingly been extended to state and local officials, such as a director of a County Human Relations Commission:[1]

Assuming that plaintiff has stated a claim for damages against the defendant Commission members and defendants Byrd, Davis, and Stevens under section 1981, section 1985, or the Fourteenth Amendment, such claims are barred by the doctrine of quasi-judicial immunity. [Commission] Director Byrd was acting in a manner functionally comparable to a judge. Specifically, under the Ordinance, the Commission delegated authority to Director Byrd to dismiss a charge. See Ordinance § 35-195(c)(1). When he dismissed plaintiffs charge, he did so "[o]n behalf of the Commission." Def. Br., Ex. A, Attach. 2 (Commission Det). Adequate procedural safeguards exist under the Ordinance in the form of judicial de novo review of Commission decisions. Thus, Director Byrd is entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity. See Ostrzenski, 177 F.3d at 249-50; Fleming v. Asbill, 42 F.3d 886, 889 (4th Cir. 1994); Ward v. Johnson, 690 F.2d 1098, 1108 (4th Cir. 1982); White v. Martin, 26 F. Supp. 2d 385, 389-90 (D. Conn. 1998); Davis v. Town of Holly Springs, 2001 WL 34013440 (E.D.N.C. Apr. 25, 2001); Stanley v. Indiana Civil Rights Comm'n, 557 F. Supp. 330, 334 (N.D. Ind.), aff'd, 740 F.2d 972 (7th Cir. 1984); Scott v. American Bar Asso., 652 F. Supp. 1419, 1422 (E.D. Pa. 1987). Likewise, Investigator Davis and Investigator Stevens were obligated to investigate plaintiff's allegations and make a recommendation to the Commission regarding plaintiff's charge. See Ordinance §§ 35-194, 35-195. This "evidentiary review [was] necessary to determine whether to pursue charges, and a prosecutor is held to be absolutely immune from liability for performing such duties." Ostrzenski, 177 F.3d at 250. As such, Investigators Davis and Stevens also are entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity. See id. (physician conducting a peer review at behest of a physician's board entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity); Fares v. United States INS, 29 F. Supp. 2d 259, 262-63 (W.D.N.C. 1998). Alternatively, even if Investigators Davis and Stevens are merely entitled to qualified immunity, the court grants the defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Lyles v. Sparks, 79 F.3d 372, 379-80 (4th Cir. 1996); Gooden v. Howard County, 954 F.2d 960, 965-70 (4th Cir. 1992)(en banc).


  1. Moore v. New Hanover County Gov't, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30144 (E.D.N.C. Aug. 13, 200).