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United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
November 11, 1986, Argued ; April 1, 1987, Decided ; April 1, 1987, Filed
[*1115] MERRITT, Circuit Judge.
This case requires us to draw a line between the administrative and the judicial acts of federal judges. The sole question we address on appeal is whether the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity shields federal judges from any liability for wrongful employment practices.
The District Court dismissed the case on the basis of absolute judicial immunity. In light of our interpretation of the well-settled law that ] the doctrine of absolute immunity does not extend to the non-judicial acts of judges, we hold that judicial immunity does not apply to the personnel decisions at issue here. We therefore reverse and remand the case to the District Court.
Helen Guercio, the former personal and confidential secretary to Bankruptcy Judge Brody of the Eastern District of Michigan, brought a civil action against Judge Brody and Judge Feikens, Chief Judge [**2] of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, in their individual and official capacities for alleged wrongful termination of her employment. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages against both judges in their individual capacities for allegedly discharging her in violation of her First Amendment free speech rights. In addition, plaintiff seeks reinstatement to [*1116] her former position or a comparable one with back pay and other employment benefits allegedly due.
Defendants moved to dismiss or for summary judgment, and the District Court dismissed plaintiff's amended complaint on the ground that plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity.
The facts of this case, as alleged in the complaint and affidavits of record, lead us through an unfortunate chapter in the history of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan -- a period in which Ms. Guercio asserts that she played a central role in exposing corruption in the Bankruptcy Court.
According to the allegations, Guercio was hired in January 1979 by Judge Brody to serve as his secretary. From October 1979 through June 1981, Guercio made various disclosures concerning [**3] corruption in the Bankruptcy Court. She revealed, for example, that the Bankruptcy Court's system of random case assignments was being manipulated. These disclosures eventually led to the resignation of a bankruptcy judge as well as the criminal convictions of an attorney and bankruptcy court clerk.
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814 F.2d 1115 *; 1987 U.S. App. LEXIS 4044 **; 1 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 1681
Helen Jean Guercio, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Honorable George Brody, Judge, United States Bankruptcy Court, and the Honorable John Feikens, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, sued individually and in their official capacities, Defendants-Appellees
Subsequent History: Vacated in Part July 17, 1987. Petition for Rehearing En Banc Denied July 17, 1987.
Prior History: [**1] On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
judicial immunity, judicial act, firing, bankruptcy court, decisions, personnel, hiring, absolute immunity, judicial council, decisionmaking, confidential, corruption, immunity
Governments, Courts, Judges, Judicial Immunity, Labor & Employment Law, Wrongful Termination, Whistleblower Protection Act, General Overview, Torts, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, Judges, Federal Government, Claims By & Against, Civil Procedure, Judicial Officers, Employees & Officials