Thursday, March 6, 2008

Judicial Immunity

In a 7-0 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court held that a judge who acted in excess of his jurisdiction in entering an order in an eviction matter was immune from civil liability. The court's summary, which links to the decision, is here. The summary states:

“Without question, Judge Abood possessed personal and subject-matter jurisdiction of Borkowski’s eviction proceedings when the complaint was filed. … It is also clear that the trial court’s jurisdiction of the eviction proceedings revived upon remand by the federal court,” wrote Justice Cupp. “Nonetheless, Judge Abood temporarily lost jurisdiction over Borkowski’s proceeding in the interval between the filing of the notice of removal and the remand by the federal court. Thus, Judge Abood’s continuation of the eviction proceeding during that period took place in the ‘absence of jurisdiction as to a part of the  proceedings.’ As a result, we cannot say that Judge Abood acted in absence of all jurisdiction with respect to this  matter. Rather, we conclude that Judge Abood acted only in excess of  jurisdiction.”    

Based on that analysis, Justice Cupp wrote: “Although Judge Abood’s conduct was in error, it was not such an error that will abrogate Judge Abood’s immunity from civil liability. … The trial court judgment resulting from Judge Abood’s decision to hold the eviction hearing subsequent to the filing of the removal notice, and before the federal court’s remand, was determined on appeal to be reversible error. However, Judge Abood had an obligation to make a preliminary determination whether he had jurisdiction to hold the hearing in the eviction proceeding. Even though his decision was erroneous, he acted in his official judicial capacity and his immunity remained intact. Based on the foregoing, the judgment of the court of appeals is hereby reversed.” (Mike Frisch)

Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink

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