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As a general matter, judicial immunity protects all judges, from the lowest to the highest court, so long as they are performing a judicial act that is not clearly beyond their jurisdiction.35 Judicial immunity is enjoyed by both state and federal judges,36 and by judges of general jurisdiction as well as limited jurisdiction.37 Although, at one time, judges of inferior courts or courts of limited jurisdiction were afforded a restricted degree of immunity or no immunity at all,38 that is no longer the case. Today these judges possess the same degree of immunity as any other judges.39 Justices of the peace, magistrates, and other lay judges are included within the grant of immunity enjoyed by the judicial branch.40 However, many of the cases in which immunity has been denied because the judge acted in clear excess of jurisdiction involve justices of the peace or other lay judges.41 This suggests that in practice there may be less tolerance of judicial immunity for judges who are not formally trained in the law.42
Judicial immunity has been given to administrative law judges and hearing examiners in administrative agencies.43 It has been held that court commissioners are judicial officers and, therefore, entitled to immunity for their official acts.44 Judicial immunity also has been granted to persons who perform quasi-judicial functions, and to individuals whose authority is the functional equivalent of that exercised by a judge.45 But judicial immunity will not be extended to persons who are not at least quasi-judicial officers,46 nor will it be extended beyond their judicial functions.47
When judges delegate their authority or appoint persons to perform services for the court, their judicial immunity may follow the delegation or appointment. Court-appointed mediators have been given judicial immunity for performing judicial tasks.48 It also has been ruled that a doctor, appointed by a court to act as an examiner in an insanity hearing, is a quasi-judicial officer who possesses immunity from liability for any action taken in conjunction with the hearing.49 And court clerks and bailiffs have been granted immunity for their activities that are judicial in nature.50
The law clerks of judges also are entitled to share in judicial immunity.51 It has been said that while some of the tasks performed by court clerks are judicial in character, the work of judges' law clerks is entirely so.52 Law clerks are sounding boards for the judges who employ them and are privy to judges' thoughts and ideas about the law and the cases over which they preside.53 One court has said - perhaps with some exaggeration - that law clerks are simply extensions of the judges whom they serve, and for purposes of absolute judicial immunity, judges and law clerks are as one.54
(San Diego Law Review. Jeffrey M. Shaman)
35 See Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 547 (1967); see also Pomeranz v. Class, 82 Colo. 173, 257 P. 1086 (1927); State ex rel. Clark v. Libbert, 96 Ind. App. 84, 177 N.E. 873 (1931); Allard v. Estes, 292 Mass. 187, 197 N.E. 884 (1935); Health v. Cornelius, 511 S.W.2d 683 (Tenn. 1974).
36 See Turner v. American Bar Ass'n, 407 F. Supp. 451 (N.D. Tex. 1975), aff'd sub nom. Taylor v. Montgomery, 539 F.2d 715 (7th Cir. 1976); Brown v. Dunne, 409 F.2d 341 (7th Cir. 1969).
37 Alzua v. Johnson, 231 U.S. 106 (1913); Sarchet v. Phillips, 102 Colo. 318, 78 P.2d 1096 (1938); Calhoun v. Little, 106 Ga. 336, 32 S.E. 86 (1898); Berry v. Smith, 148 Va. 424, 139 S.E. 252 (1927).
38 See Voll v. Steele, 141 Ohio St. 293, 47 N.E.2d 991 (1943); Williamson v. Lacy, 86 Me. 98, 29 A. 943 (1893); Robertson v. Parker, 99 Wis. 652, 75 N.W. 423 (1898).
39 See Alzua, 231 U.S. at 111.
40 See Perez v. Borchers, 567 F.2d 285 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 831 (1978).
41 C. WOLFRAM, supra note 24, at 971.
42 See id.
43 Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 478 (1978).
44 Linder v. Foster, 209 Minn. 43, 295 N.W. 299 (1940).
45 Morales v. Vegas, 483 F. Supp. 1057 (D.P.R. 1979); Miller v. Reddin, 293 F. Supp. 216 (C.D. Cal. 1968).
46 See Brown v. Rosenbloom, 34 Colo. App. 109, 524 P.2d 626 (1974), afJd, 188 Colo. 83, 532 P.2d 948 (1975).
47 McGhee v. Moyer, 60 F.R.D. 578 (W.D. Va. 1973).
48 Mills v. Killebrew, 765 F.2d 69 (6th Cir. 1985).
49 See Linder v. Foster, 209 Minn. 43, 43, 295 N.W. 299, 299 (1940).
50 Scott v. Dixon, 720 F.2d 1542 (11th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 832 (1984); Tarter v. Hury, 646 F.2d 1010 (5th Cir. 1981); Slotnick v. Stavinskey, 560 F.2d 31 (1st Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1077 (1978); Adkins v. Clark County, 105 Wash. 2d 675, 717 P.2d 275 (1986).
51 Oliva v. Heller, 670 F. Supp. 523 (S.D.N.Y. 1987), a~fd, 839 F.2d 37 (2d Cir. 1988); see also Eades v. Sterlinski, 810 F.2d 723 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 847 (1987); Gray v. Bell, 712 F.2d 490 (9th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1100 (1984).
52 Oliva, 670 F. Supp. at 526.