Forrester v. White

484 U. S. 219

January 12, 1988

Cynthia Forrester was fired from her job as probation officer by Judge White. Forrester filed a lawsuit claiming sex discrimination, and White tried to get it dismissed on the grounds of judicial immunity. He reasoned that his judicial opinions might be affected if he thought a probation officer was incompetent, and thus he ought to have freedom to make firing decisions without worrying about lawsuits.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that judicial immunity did not extend so far. O’Connor explained that some immunity was necessary to isolate judges from frivolous litigation, and to allow for full judicial independence (Blackmun did not join this section). Nonetheless, immunity only existed when the action at question was adjudicatory in nature. If the action could be done by someone other than a judge, no immunity existed. Because a whole host of other state actors could potentially fire a probation officer, judge White did retain immunity.

This was a good ruling. Much as I dislike BS sex discrimination lawsuits, I dislike governmental immunity even more. No one should be above the law. We’re told that judges would have a hard time doing their job impartially if they were worried about being sued. To which I can only say: welcome to life, bubs. Lawyers, businesses, schools, and even ordinary citizens have to live their lives in constant terror of vexatious litigation. I don’t understand why judges, of all people, should be spared.

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