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National Survey Shows Wide Variation in Actions Against Court Personnel

NCJ Number
State Court Journal Volume: 6 Issue: 3 Dated: (Summer 1982) Pages: 9-14,24-25
J A Ito
Date Published
8 pages
Questionnaires completed by chief justices in 46 States and territories revealed that more than 600 actions were initiated against judges and court personnel in 1981, although the number of cases filed per State varied widely with 45 percent being in New York and Pennsylvania.
Since comparable data for previous years are not available, the survey conducted by the National Center for State Courts' Research and Information Service could not determine if litigation has been increasing. A review of case descriptions provided by respondents showed that the judicial actions challenged most commonly involved the following issues: constitutionality of State statutes, conduct of criminal proceedings, child custody and parental rights, discipline of lawyers and admission to the bar, civil rights, due process, classification and employment of court personnel, and vexations complaints. Most of the few 1981 cases disposed of were dismissed, with few appeals. The attorney general represents judges and court employees when an action is brought against them in most States, although some areas place responsibility for providing counsel on the governmental entity employing them. Among the problems cited by respondents were the lack of clear guidelines for determining responsibility for providing counsel and situations where the attorney general claimed a conflict of interest. The exposure of judges and other court officials to liability may be addressed through legislation or insurance. Of the 49 States and territories providing information in this area, 13 had statutes relating to judicial immunity or liability. However, most applied generally to State employees. Several States have investigated liability insurance, but the chief justices were aware of only a very few judges who had purchased such insurance. The article includes 17 footnotes.


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