Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

What is Judicial Immunity?

The immunity defense that judicial offers may invoke when made defendants in a civil suit - similar to the official-immunity defense applicable to government agents generally -  must not  be confused with judicial proceedings privilege, which is sometimes also referred as "immunity" and provides a defense in suits complaining of conduct or communications made by others in the course of a court proceeding.


Judges acting in their official judicial capacity have immunity from liability and suit [Fn3] for judicial acts performed within the scope of their jurisdiction. Twilligear v. Carrell, 148 S.W.3d 502, 504 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2004, pet. denied) (citing Dallas Cnty v. Halsey, 87 S.W.3d 552, 554 (Tex. 2002)).

Fn3: Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991).

This immunity extends to actions that are taken in error, maliciously, and even in excess of the judge‘s authority. Id. (citing Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356–57 (1978)). Immunity is overcome only for actions that are: (1) nonjudicial, i.e., not taken in the judge‘s official capacity; or (2) taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction. Id. (citing Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11–12 (1991)).

Whether an act is judicial or nonjudicial for this purpose is determined by the nature of the act — whether it is a function normally performed by a judge and to the expectations of the parties — as contrasted from other administrative, legislative, orexecutive acts that simply happen to be done by judges. Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11–12; Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 227 (1988); Twilligear, 148 S.W.3d at 504-05.

Judicial acts include those performed by judges in adjudicating, or otherwise exercising their judicial authority over, proceedings pending in their courts. Twilligear, 148 S.W.3d at 505.

Conversely, nonjudicial acts include other tasks, even though essential to the functioning of courts and required by law to be performed by a judge, such as: (1) selecting jurors for a county‘s courts; (2) promulgating and enforcing a code of conduct for attorneys; and (3) making personnel decisions regarding court employees and officers. Id. (citing Forrester, 484 U.S. at 228–31).

SOURCE: Houston Court of Appeals - 14-10-00900-CV - 7/26/11