In the case of King v McCree, the Sixth Circuit has handed down a decision that affirms the principle of judicial immunity. The facts are reminiscent of the Gilbert and Sullivan one-act, “Trial by Jury.”
Judge Wade McCree, presiding over a felony child – support case, conducted a secret sexual relationship with the woman seeking support from the defendant, King. The Michigan Supreme Court both removed Judge McCree from his judgeship and prospectively suspended him without pay for six years just in case Michigan voters—and voters have been known to do such stupid things–re-elect him if he runs for judge again in November 2014.
The defendant sued the ex-judge, claiming that the judge’s obvious conflict of interest–playing bedroom bingo with the complaining witness while her case was being adjudicated in his court— violated King’s right to due process of law. The district court ruled that Judge McCree was immune from such lawsuits under the doctrine of judicial immunity, and the Sixth Circuit agreed.
Why? Because if the system allows bad judges to be sued for things like this, then good judges will be sued for just doing their job, and every judge will be factoring in the likelihood of a lawsuit by the losing party no matter what the case is, or what the facts are. The only way the judicial system can work is if judges know they will not be sued for doing their jobs correctly and competently. This requires, unfortunately, that judges who are corrupt, incompetent and stupid cannot be sued either.
This is classic and proper utilitarianism—allowing a wrong in protection and furtherance of a greater good.
Doesn’t it feel awful?
Pointer and Facts: Legal Ethics Forum