Schmidt v. Contra Costa County

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 09-10-2012
  • Case #: 11-15563
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court, Circuit Judge Bybee and Chief District Judge Vance
  • Full Text Opinion

Judges receive legislative immunity for setting subordinate judicial officer qualifications when the qualifications apply to a broad group, are formally adopted, and bear other traditional hallmarks of legislation.

Schmidt was rendered ineligible to serve as a temporary commissioner after a policy was set in place by the Superior Court’s Executive Commission expressing the requirements for any temporary judges, commissioners, and referees. Schmidt alleged that the policy was set in place in retaliation, therefore violating her free speech rights protected by the First Amendment and the California Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment to the judges in the Superior Court’s Executive Committee based on legislative immunity. The Ninth Circuit analyzed whether such Judges are entitled to legislative immunity under Federal Law and the California Constitution. First, the court noted that the Superior Court’s Executive commission has the right to regulate the requirements for subordinate judicial officers (SJOs) because California Rules of Court 10.601(b)(3) and 10.670(c)(4) grant the authority to implement minimum qualification for current, potential, and future employees. Therefore, the Superior Court’s Executive Committee has the legislative authority to regulate the minimum requirements for SJOs. Second, the court concluded that the act was legislative because; the policy created a binding rule for all attorneys serving as temporary SJOs, it was extended to present and future applicants, it was voted upon in a formal meeting of the Executive Committee, and it bore hallmarks of traditional legislation by setting qualifications, reducing the pool of applicants and reached beyond the present temporary SJOs. Therefore, the policy was legislative and the Judges had legislative immunity under Federal Law. Third, under California Law, the focus is based on whether the act contains matters regarded as legislative in character and effect. The court explained, based on the Federal Law discussion, that it was legislative, focusing on the fact that is extended not only to the plaintiff but also to other current, potential and future SJOs. Therefore, under both Federal and California Law, the Judges are entitled to legislative immunity for enacting the requirement policy. AFFIRMED.

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