Judges Absolute Immunity To Civil Liability Is Overcome In Only Two Sets Of Circumstances
“McInerney has been appointed the presiding judge over the 40 municipal courts in Burlington County. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner named McInerney, of Cinnaminson, New Jersey (Burlington County) (Pictured Above) Chief Justice Stuart Rabner named McInerney , of Cinnaminson, to the position to replace Bonnie L. Goldman, who retired. McInerney was also the municipal judge in Burlington Township, Fieldsboro, New Hanover, Pemberton Borough, Riverside, Southampton and the joint courts of Mansfield and Springfield and was appointed the presiding judge over the 40 municipal courts in Burlington County.
Years back McInerney issued a false bench warrant for my arrest. In court he ordered a Burlington Township Officer to escort me out of the building after, he told me that he was issuing a Bench Warrant for my arrest for failure to appear, while I was physically before him. This case was over a parking ticket. I was never allowed to enter a not guilty nor guilty plea. The Bench warrant remained in the system for at least two years. I was arrested in another township on that bench warrant during an illegal traffic stop. The arresting municipality coerced me to pay a bail. I ultimately received a copy of the electronically issued bench warrant. The Bench warrant falsely purports that it was issued based on failure to comply with sentencing when, in fact he never sentenced me because he had me escorted out of the building.
Upon discovery as to the bogus grounds McInerney used to issue the Bench Warrant, I filed a theft by deception complaint against the officer who took my money to cover fees associated with McInerney’s Bench Warrant. The Federal and State Constitution require that my complaint be determined by a neutral and detached judicial officer. McInerney was mentioned in the Affidavit of Probable cause because he issued the bogus bench warrant. McInerney received my complaints. McInerney made “No” findings of probable cause letters, identifying himself as the Judge making the probable cause determinations clearly in violation of due process and equal protection and it appears, he is still employed. It looks like McInerny’s corrupt practices and official misconduct after all these years have finally resulted in him being exposed. The District Court of New Jersey surprisingly ruled that McInerney could be held liable for his actions in Kneisser v. McInerney.
“Based on what transpired, Plaintiff claims that: (1) there was no refusal to pay; (2) at no point did Judge McInerney attempt to determine whether and to what extent Plaintiff was able to pay; (3) Plaintiff would have been able to start paying on an installment plan when he was paid by his job on or about June 2, 2014; (4) when Plaintiff attempted to explain to Judge McInerney that there was no one he could call to make alternate arrangements, Judge McInerney refused to consider any explanation and ordered Mr. Kneisser to jail; and (5) Judge McInerney suppressed Plaintiff’s testimony by interrupting him and refusing to allow Plaintiff the opportunity to explain his inability to pay.”
“Plaintiff claims that Judge McInerney’s motive was clear. The only thing he was interested in was generating revenue for the Municipal Court, which was apparent from Judge McInerney’s opening statement and the express written policy of the Municipal Court. Plaintiff claims that the Defendants’ motives were further confirmed by the Court Administrator, Rosa Henry, who thereafter advised Plaintiff’s father that the Court acts to “get their money as fast as they can,” and that “it is all about collection,” so that the Court can “get them while they have them” in order to prevent “issuing warrants, suspending driving licenses, chasing people, etc.”
“Plaintiff claims that Defendants’ actions demonstrate an unconstitutional policy and custom to jail those offenders incapable of or unable to pay their fines on their hearing dates. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants’ policy violates well-established principles of due process and equal protection by subjecting an individual defendant to a term of imprisonment without first affording them notice and an opportunity to be heard on whether and to what extent they are able to pay their fines. Plaintiff further claims that the policy invidiously discriminates against indigent defendants in that it fails to take into consideration the financial circumstances of any individual defendant. Plaintiff claims that the policy lacks any rational basis and fails to serve any penological objective, and it is used solely as a collection device and cannot be tolerated.”
“In addition to violations of due process and equal protection, Plaintiff claims that Defendants’ policy unconstitutionally imposed a term of imprisonment as the penalty for violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-64, which is a fine-only offense. Plaintiff also claims that his right to counsel was violated because he only indicated he was waiving his right to counsel with respect to his plea for littering, not for his right to be represented under threat of imprisonment.”
“Township of Burlington argues that it cannot be liable for what occurred to Plaintiff in the Municipal Court under two theories. One theory is that Judge McInerney is entitled to absolute judicial immunity for his actions, a defense advanced by Judge McInerney himself, and if Judge McInerney is immune from suit, the Township cannot be held liable.”
“This theory is unavailing because even if Judge McInerney were entitled to absolute immunity, Plaintiff’s claims against the Township arise from a policy and practice of the Township itself, through Township employees and its Municipal Court, and not on a respondeat superior theory for Judge McInerney’s individual actions. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 694 (explaining that to establish municipal liability, a plaintiff must show that it tolerated or adopted an unofficial custom that results in the unlawful stripping of constitutional rights); Barna v. Board of School Directors of the Panther Valley School District, 877 F.3d 136, 145 n.6 (3d Cir. 2017) (fact that officer has qualified immunity standing alone does immunize municipality for liability since governmental entity not entitled to qualified immunity).”
“The analysis is a separate one. The district court must assess municipal liability distinct from the claims against individual officers. Fagan v. City of Vineland, 22 F.3d 1283, 1294 (3d Cir. 1994); Barna, 877 F.3d at 145 (“‘[P]precedent in [the 3d Circuit] requires the district court to review the plaintiff’s municipal liability claims independently of the section 1983 claims against the individual officers.'”) (quoting Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1213 (3d Cir. 1996)).”
“Judges are generally “‘immune from a suit for money damages.'” Figueroa v. Blackburn, 208 F.3d 435, 440 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 9 (1991); Randall v. Brigham, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 523, 536 (1868) (“This doctrine is as old as the law, and its maintenance is essential to the impartial administration of justice.”)).”
“A judge’s immunity from civil liability “is overcome in only two sets of circumstances.
First, a judge is not immune from liability for nonjudicial acts, i.e., actions not taken in the judge’s judicial capacity.
Second, a judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature, taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction.”Id.(citation and quotations omitted).”
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1687 (1974) stated that “when a state officer acts under a state law in a manner violative of the Federal Constitution, he “comes into conflict with the superior authority of that Constitution, and he is in that case stripped of his official or representative character and is subjected in his person to the consequences of his individual conduct. The State has no power to impart to him any immunity from responsibility to the supreme authority of the United States.” [Emphasis supplied in original]. By law, a judge is a state officer. The judge then acts not as a judge, but as a private individual (in his person).
“The Court today reaffirms the rule that judges are immune from suits for damages, but holds that they may be sued for injunctive and declaratory relief and held personally liable for money judgments in the form of costs and attorney’s fees merely on the basis of erroneous judicial decisions.”
Source: Pulliam v. Allen