A Federal court found a Michigan county judge not liable for violating the civil rights of a man. The man found that the judge carried on an affair with his wife in the midst of a child-support case. However, the man can’t sue the judge who had an affair with his wife.
Reprehensible, but not an Eligible Civil Rights Violation
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case. A three-judge panel found the behavior of the county judge reprehensible. However, the court also found that since his actions took place while in the course of the judge’s duties, judicial immunity protected him. The father, Robert King, cannot collect damages, as the judge acted within his official capacity. The appeals court found the personal bias of the judge did not create a due-process violation since he was not serving in a judicial function. Judicial immunity does not only protect a judge from the assessment of damages, but it protects the judge from even being subjected to the suit. There are only two exceptions. First, a judge may be liable if the action was “nonjudicial”. Second, a judge may be liable for actions taken completely outside his jurisdiction.
Judge Removed from his Position on the Bench
While King is unable to pursue Federal civil rights claim, the state’s tenure commission found the judge engaged in improper behavior. The commission found that he was not fit to sit as a judge and suspended him.
The judge apparently had sexual relations with the wife, a witness in a child-support case, while the case involving King was on-going. The judge, Wade McCreée, admitted to having relations with her. He noted that he should have recused himself, but he did not. Interestingly, he stated that despite having sex with a witness, his decision-making was still independent and unbiased.
The judge and the woman had an ongoing relationship, which even included sexual relations in the judge’s chambers. The judge apparently also gave the woman about $6,000. He knew what he was doing was wrong, as well. In an email to the woman, he said they would have to keep their relationship a secret so the judicial tenure commission would not find out.
The Michigan Supreme Court suspended the judge without pay for six years. The suspension will go into effect if voters re-elect him to his position.