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Waits v. McGowan

decided: April 30, 1975.

FRANK S. WAITS, APPELLANT
v.
HON. RAYMOND MCGOWAN, A.J.S.C. MONMOUTH COUNTY; THOMAS L. YACCARINO, MONMOUTH COUNTY; JACK MULANEY, ESQ., PROSECUTOR, MONMOUTH; TIMOTHY HUGHES, ESQ., PUBLIC DEFENDER FOR MONMOUTH COUNTY; WILLIAM GEARITY, INVESTIGATOR FOR MONMOUTH COUNTY PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE; MR. CLEARY, PUBLIC DEFENDER, MONMOUTH COUNTY, ET AL.



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY (D.C. Civil No. 74-525)

Van Dusen, Gibbons and Hunter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Van Dusen

Opinion OF THE COURT

VAN DUSEN, Circuit Judge.

This appeal challenges a June 28, 1974, district court order dismissing a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) and § 1983,*fn1 alleging that defendants had conspired to withhold information showing the alleged illegal removal of plaintiff from Canada to New York without any extradition procedures or warrant, resulting in his present confinement in a New Jersey state prison after conviction followed by "a 9 to 10 year sentence imposed -- by the Superior Court of New Jersey, Monmouth County for the crime of manslaughter and neglect inclusive." The complaint also alleges that defendants acted under orders of the above court, in violation of Waits' rights, to have him returned to Monmouth County in April 1973 "for the sole purpose of prosecution." The complaint seeks $250,000. in damages from each of the defendants. On May 22, 1974, a motion to dismiss the complaint was filed on behalf of defendants McGowan, Yaccarino and Mulaney. On May 28, 1974, a separate motion ". . . for an Order dismissing the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), F.R. Civ. P., and for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, F.R. Civ. P." was filed on behalf of defendants McGowan and Yaccarino, with affidavits attached alleging that such defendants are and have been, at all relevant times, judges of the New Jersey state courts. No counter-affidavit has been filed to such affidavits. On June 3, 1974, a motion to dismiss the action because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted was filed on behalf of defendants Gearity, Hughes and Cleary.

I. Defendants McGowan, Yaccarino, Mulaney, Hughes and Cleary

Defendants McGowan and Yaccarino, being state judges, are immune from this suit. See Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 18 L. Ed. 2d 288, 87 S. Ct. 1213 (1967). Defendant Mulaney is alleged in the complaint to be Monmouth County prosecutor and, as such, is also immune from this suit. See Bauers v. Heisel, 361 F.2d 581 (3d Cir. 1966), and Kauffman v. Moss, 420 F.2d 1270 (3d Cir. 1970). Finally, the defendants Cleary and Hughes are each alleged to be "Public Defender-Monmouth County" and hence are immune from suit.*fn2 See Brown v. Joseph, 463 F.2d 1046, 1048-49 (3d Cir. 1972).*fn3

II. Defendant Gearity*fn4

The complaint alleges that this defendant is "Investigator For Monmouth County, Public Defender Office" and the defendant has not controverted or supplemented this description by affidavit or other means contemplated by F.R. Civ. P. 56. For the reasons stated below, we have concluded that the June 28, 1974, order must be affirmed insofar as it dismisses the complaint as to Gearity. (See, particularly, A and C below.)

A. Immunity under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985

In view of the allegations in this record that Gearity was acting solely in the course of his employment as an investigator for a public defender, working as a member of the bar in representing Waits as defendant in a state criminal prosecution (see first sentence of second paragraph under C below), we have concluded that he is immune from this suit. In Hill v. McClellan, 490 F.2d 859, 860 (5th Cir. 1974), the court pointed out that "a private person alleged to have conspired with a state judge and attorney who are entitled to immunity cannot be held liable, since he is not conspiring with persons acting under color of law against whom a valid claim could be stated. [Citing cases.]." See also French v. Corrigan, 432 F.2d 1211, 1214 (7th Cir. 1970); McIntosh v. Garofalo, 367 F. Supp. 501, 504-05 (W.D.Pa. 1973).

The federal courts have recognized that where the function of an attorney's employee and the judicial process are closely allied, immunity will be granted, whereas if such function is not directly related to the court's decisionmaking activities, such immunity may not be available.*fn5 For example, a prosecuting attorney's investigative activity based on leads and suspicion is distinguished, in some cases, from his acts directly related to the prosecution of an accused, with the result that he is denied immunity in the former situation. Dodd v. Spokane County, Washington, 393 F.2d 330, 335 (9th Cir. 1968); Balistrieri v. Warren, 314 F. Supp. 824, 826 (W.D. Wi. 1970). However, where the defendant is directly involved in the judicial process, he may receive immunity in his own right for the performance of a discretionary act or he may be covered by the immunity afforded the judge because he is performing a ministerial function at the direction of the judge. The following cases indicate the range of reasoning used by the courts to protect the clerk of the court from liability in civil rights suits: Denman v. Leedy, 479 F.2d 1097, 1098 (6th Cir. 1973) (failure to fix bond was within scope of official, quasi-judicial duties); Blouin v. Dembitz, 367 F. Supp. 415, 422 (S.D. N.Y. 1973), aff'd solely on other grounds, 489 F.2d 488 (2d Cir. 1973) (issuance of arrest warrants by judge for failure to respond to summons is a judicial act for which the judge is immune and his protection from suit may not be circumvented by pretense of bringing suit also against clerk); Barnes v. Dorsey, 480 F.2d 1057, 1060 (8th Cir. 1973) (plaintiff failed to allege that clerk was improperly performing what were purely ministerial duties and did not show injury as a result of illegal acts); Smith v. Rosenbaum, 460 F.2d 1019, 1020 (3d Cir. 1972) (revocation of bail bond was a ministerial act mandated by statute); Davis v. Quarter Sessions Court, 361 F. Supp. 720, 722 (E.D. Pa. 1973) (claim against office of clerk for failure to furnish prisoner with copy of transcript of criminal proceedings is barred by doctrine of judicial immunity; no evidence supported a claim against the clerk personally; negligent conduct by a state official is not of itself sufficient to impose liability under Civil Rights Act).

The recent Supreme Court case of Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90, 94 S. Ct. 1683 (1974), reemphasizes the holding of Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 5 L. Ed. 2d 492, 81 S. Ct. 473 (1961), that a state officer's acts which constitute an abuse of the power conferred on him by the state are actionable under the Civil Rights Act even though the acts lie outside the scope of the state officer's authority. Several cases grant the extension of the judicial immunity ...


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