Immunity for judge who had intimate relationship with complaining witness in felony matter

July 23, 2014

New decision from Sixth Circuit in case where judge had an intimate relationship with the complaining witness in a felony matter.

Judge Wade McCree, while serving as the presiding judge in a felony child – support case against Robert King, maintained a romantic and sexual relationship with the complaining witness against King. In part as a result of this conduct, the Michigan Supreme Court both removed Judge McCree from judicial office and prospectively suspended him without pay for six years if voters should reelect Judge McCree in November 2014. King Sued Judge McCree Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Judge McCree’s conduct surrounding his case violated his right to due process of law. The district court determined that Judge McCree is immune from suit under the doctrine of judicial immunity. Because any violation of King’s constitutional rights arose purely from Judge McCree’s judicial actions, we affirm.

From the concurrence:

Absolute judicial immunity remains “strong medicine.” Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 230 (1988) (internal quotation marks omitted). At times, its application will seem overinclusive — shielding from suits for damages those who clearly have abused their office and tarnished the reputation of the judiciary. This is the price we all must pay for “the benefit of the public, whose interest it is that judges should be at liberty to exercise their functions with independence and without fear of  consequences.” Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967) (internal quotation marks omitted). I take solace knowing that the Michigan Supreme Court has already stepped in and rendered the best justice possible: removing Judge McCree from office. Accordingly, I join the majority in affirming the district court’s grant of judicial immunity and dismissal of King’s suit.

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