entitled to a judgment in his favor as a matter of law. The resolution of this issue depends upon a determination of the question of whether the defendants, while acting under color of state law, violated Allen's civil and constitutional rights by transmitting, without docketing, Allen's two petitions for habeas corpus to the Prothonotary. To resolve this question, we must analyze the extent to which each of the named defendants is immune from liability for damages resulting from the failure to docket Allen's habeas corpus petitions.
42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides that "every person" who acts under color of state law to deprive another person of a constitutional right shall be liable to that person in a suit for damages. However, it is well settled that § 1983 must be read in harmony with the general common law principles of tort immunities and defenses. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 418, 96 S. Ct. 984, 47 L. Ed. 2d 128 (1976), Citing Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367, 71 S. Ct. 783, 95 L. Ed. 1019 (1951). Thus, under § 1983, two general levels of immunity are recognized: absolute immunity for judges for acts committed within their discretion, and qualified immunity for governmental officials for acts undertaken in good faith and without malice in the performance of their duties. See Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 87 S. Ct. 1213, 18 L. Ed. 2d 288 (1967); Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308, 322, 95 S. Ct. 992, 43 L. Ed. 2d 214 (1974); and, Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 247-248, 94 S. Ct. 1683, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90 (1974). The doctrine of absolute immunity for judges has been extended by the Supreme Court to provide absolute immunity to those "quasi-judicial" officials, such as prosecutors, who exercise discretion in the performance of their duties. See, e. g., Imbler v. Pachtman, supra, 424 U.S. at 431, 96 S. Ct. 984; Brawer v. Horowitz, 535 F.2d 830, 834 (3d Cir. 1976). However, absolute "quasi-judicial" immunity has been limited by the Third Circuit to extend only to those "quasi-judicial" officials performing adjudicatory or otherwise judgmental functions. Skehan v. Board of Trustees of Bloomsburg State College, 538 F.2d 53, 59-61 (3rd Cir.) (en banc), Cert. denied, 429 U.S. 979, 97 S. Ct. 490, 50 L. Ed. 2d 588 (1976).
The Clerk of the Court and his agents exercise no discretion in the performance of their duties similar to the discretion exercised by judges or "quasi-judicial" officials. Although the Clerk of the Court and his agents have important duties in the judicial process, their duties, such as docketing and filing papers with the court, are ministerial and mandatory acts which do not merit insulation from liability for damages by a grant of absolute "quasi-judicial" immunity. We hold, therefore, that the defendants in this case cannot be characterized as "quasi-judicial" officials and, thus, are not entitled to absolute "quasi-judicial" immunity from liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the allegedly improper performance of their ministerial duties. McCray v. Maryland, 456 F.2d 1, 4 (4th Cir. 1972); Raitport v. Provident National Bank, 451 F. Supp. 522, 535-538 (E.D.Pa.1978).
However, qualified immunity from liability for damages in suits brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 may be available for a government official acting in good faith pursuant to the lawful authority vested in him by the state. This qualified immunity from liability for damages is available where the official: (1) did not know or reasonably should not have known that the action he took within his sphere of official responsibility would violate the constitutional rights of another person; or, (2) acted without malicious intention to cause a deprivation of constitutional rights or other injury to the person. Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308, 322, 95 S. Ct. 992, 43 L. Ed. 2d 214 (1974); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 247-248, 94 S. Ct. 1683, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90 (1974). In the instant case, Allen argues first that the defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity because they knew or reasonably should have known that Allen's petitions were filed pursuant to the PCHA because the face of his January petition indicated that Allen was seeking post-conviction relief from his allegedly unconstitutional juvenile conviction in state court and because the PCHA encompasses all common law and statutory procedures, including habeas corpus, available to secure post-conviction relief. Further, Allen argues that the defendants knew or reasonably should have known that the transmittal, without docketing, of Allen's petitions to the Prothonotary was contrary to Section 6 of the PCHA,
which requires the Clerk of the Court, and not the Prothonotary, to immediately docket all PCHA petitions for post-conviction relief. In response, the defendants argue that they did not know, nor reasonably should have known, that Allen's petitions for habeas corpus were filed pursuant to the PCHA because his petitions were unidentifiable as PCHA petitions. Specifically, Dorsey and Osswald contend that Allen did not comply with Section 5(a) of the PCHA
and Pa.R.Crim.P. 1501, the statutes which govern the form of all PCHA petitions, because Allen's petitions failed to include the following: a plain statement on its face that the petition was a "post conviction hearing act petition"; identification of all previous proceedings in which Allen attempted to secure relief from his conviction or sentence; affidavits, records and other supporting evidence; a statement of other available grounds of relief for Allen; or, a separation of all facts within the personal knowledge of Allen from other allegations of fact. The defendants also state that Allen's petitions improperly included argument, citations and discussion of authorities in support of his habeas corpus petitions. Upon review of Allen's January and February petitions for habeas corpus, we find that Allen failed to comply with the mandatory requirements of both Section 5(a) of the PCHA, 19 Pa.C.S. § 1180-5(a), and Pa.R.Crim.P. 1501; that Allen's petitions for habeas corpus were unidentifiable as PCHA petitions; and, that the defendants did not know, and reasonably could not have known, that Allen's petitions were sent to the office of the Clerk of the Court pursuant to the PCHA.
Allen argues, second, that the defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity because the transmittal of his petitions to the Prothonotary was "patently unreasonable" because the defendants should have known that then-Local Rule 301, which required every petition for a writ of habeas corpus to be filed with the Prothonotary, was in direct contradiction to Section 6 of the PCHA. Dorsey and Osswald respond that they acted without malicious intention to deprive Allen of his constitutional rights because they had no discretion to disobey the order and mandate of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. We find that the ministerial nature of the defendants' jobs required obedience to all judicial orders or directions, including Rule 301 of the Local Rules of Court, and that the defendants acted in good faith and without malice by transmitting Allen's petitions for habeas corpus to the Prothonotary, pursuant to then-Local Rule of Court 301.
In conclusion, having found that the defendants did not know or reasonably could not have known that Allen's petitions for habeas corpus were mailed to the Clerk of the Court for filing pursuant to the PCHA, and having found that the subsequent transmittal of the petitions to the Prothonotary was in good faith and without malicious intention, we hold that the defendants in this case are entitled to qualified immunity from liability for damages. Accordingly, we hold that the defendants are entitled to judgment in their favor as a matter of law, and that the plaintiffs are not entitled to a judgment in their favor as a matter of law because the defendants, while acting under color of state law, are entitled under the circumstances of this case to qualified immunity from liability for damages resulting from the alleged deprivation of Allen's civil and constitutional rights. We will, therefore, grant defendants' and deny plaintiffs' respective motions for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.
An appropriate Order will be entered.