Mason et al v. Rhea
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Robert B Propst on 1/8/2013. (AVC)
2013 Jan-08 PM 03:10
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SHANNON MASON and
WILLIAM H. RHEA III
The initial issue in this case regarding judicial immunity is so obvious, the court initially
determined not to further address it. However, in order to educate those who may wish further
knowledge the court notes the following:
Judges of courts of superior or general jurisdiction are not liable to civil actions for
their judicial acts, even when such acts are in excess of their jurisdiction, and are
alleged to have been done maliciously or corruptly.
Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335, 351 (1872).
A distinction must be here observed between excess of jurisdiction and the clear
absence of all jurisdiction over the subject-matter. Where there is clearly no
jurisdiction over the subject-matter any authority exercised is a usurped authority,
and for the exercise of such authority, when the want of jurisdiction is known to the
judge, no excuse is permissible. But where jurisdiction over the subject-matter is
invested by law in the judge, or in the court which he holds, the manner and extent
in which the jurisdiction shall be exercised are generally as much questions for his
determination as any other questions involved in the case, although upon the
correctness of his determination in these particulars the validity of his judgments
Id. at 351-352.
The Court of Appeals correctly recognized that the necessary inquiry in
determining whether a defendant judge is immune from suit is whether at the time
he took the challenged action he had jurisdiction over the subject matter before him.
Because 'some of the most difficult and embarrassing questions which a judicial
officer is called upon to consider and determine relate to his jurisdiction . . . ,' the
scope of the judge's jurisdiction must be construed broadly where the issue is the
immunity of the judge. A judge will not be deprived of immunity because the action
he took was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority; rather,
he will be subject to liability only when he has acted in the 'clear absence of all
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356-357 (1978) )(quoting Bradley, 13 Wall. at 351 (1871)). Also
see Bolin v. Story, 225 F.3d 1234 (11th Cir. 2000).1
This the 8th day of January, 2013.
ROBERT B. PROPST
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
This court does not rely upon the Eleventh Amendment argument of the defendant as such. It may also
defeat plaintiffs' claim(s).
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