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Qualified Immunity and Contract Employees

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The Supreme Court today decided Filarsky v. Delia:

Section 1983 provides a cause of action against state actors who violate an individual's rights under federal law. 42 U. S. C. §1983. At common law, those who carried out the work of government enjoyed various protections from liability when doing so, in order to allow them to serve the government without undue fear of personal exposure. Our decisions have looked to these common law protections in affording either absolute or qualified immunity to individuals sued under §1983. The question in this case is whether an individual hired by the government to do its work is prohibited from seeking such immunity, solely be- cause he works for the government on something other than a permanent or full-time basis.

As you might guess from the phrasing of the question, the answer is no.  The temporary or part-time government actor gets the same immunity, the Court held unanimously.  Filarsky arises out of civil litigation, but its rationale would extend to an attorney who acts as a prosecutor on a less-than-full-time basis.

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