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General Rule as to Discretionary, Judicial, or Quasi-Judicial Acts

The United States Supreme Court has held that judges of courts of superior or general authority are absolutely privileged with respect to civil suits to recover for actions taken by them in the exercise of their judicial functions, irrespective of the motives with which those acts are alleged to have been performed and that a like immunity extends to other officers of government whose duties are related to the judicial process.[i]  The doctrine of judicial immunity from suit has been extended to governmental officials with respect to their acts of a discretionary, judicial, or quasi-judicial nature.  The general rule of immunity extends not only to a head of a department but also applies to those subordinate officers who act in the department’s place, carrying out the duties of the department.

An administrative officer is not personally liable in a civil action for damages for an error or mistake in making a determination where the officer was acting:

  • within his/her jurisdiction;
  • in the honest exercise of judgment;
  • without bad faith, and
  • without violating clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would be aware;
  • in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity, or
  • in a capacity in which it was the officer’s duty to exercise judgment and discretion.[ii]

[i] Barr v. Matteo, 360 U.S. 564, 79 S. Ct. 1335, 3 L. Ed. 2d 1434 (1959)

[ii] Robinette v. Price, 214 Minn. 521, 8 N.W.2d 800 (1943); Hardy v. Vial, 48 Cal. 2d 577, 311 P.2d 494, 66 A.L.R.2d 739 (1957)

Inside General Rule as to Discretionary, Judicial, or Quasi-Judicial Acts