Ellett Law Offices, P.C.

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Quasi-Judicial Immunity

May 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Blog

It is well-established within the Ninth Circuit that a bankruptcy court-appointed officer is afforded quasi-judicial immunity when acting within the officer’s official capacity. In re Harris, 590 F.3d 730, 743 (9th Cir. 2009) (“Bankruptcy trustees are entitled to broad immunity from suit when acting within the scope of their authority and pursuant to court order.”) (citing Bennett v. Williams, 892 F.2d 822, 823 (9th Cir. 1989)). Bankruptcy court-appointed officers are provided quasi-judicial immunity because “judicial immunity not only protects judges against suit from acts done within their jurisdiction, but also spreads outward to shield related public servants, including … trustees in bankruptcy….” In re Jackson, 105 B.R. 542, 544 (9th Cir. B.A.P. 1989) (citing Bennett v. Williams, 87 B.R. 122, 123 (S.D.Cal.1988). The purpose of quasi-judicial immunity is “to submit all officials, the innocent as well as the guilty, to the burden of a trial and to the inevitable danger of its outcome, would dampen the ardor of all but the most resolute, or the most irresponsible, in the unflinching discharge of their duties.” In re Mortgages Ltd., No. No. 1 CA–CV 12–0648, 2013 WL 1336830, at *5 (Bankr. D. Ariz. Mar. 29, 2013) (citing Judge Learned Hand). Quasi-judicial immunity also protects court-appointed bankruptcy attorneys from suit. In re Harris, 590 F.3d at 742 (“The doctrine of judicial immunity also applies to court approved attorneys for the trustee.”).

Four elements must be met in order for a bankruptcy attorney to be protected by quasi-judicial immunity: (1) the acts were within the scope of the bankruptcy attorney’s authority; (2) the debtor had notice of the proposed acts; (3) the bankruptcy attorney candidly disclosed the proposed acts to the bankruptcy court; and (4) the bankruptcy court approved the acts. Id. (citing Bennett, 892 F.2d at 823). Even though a bankruptcy attorney is provided broad protections while acting within its official capacity, a bankruptcy attorney may be liable for “intentional or negligent violations of duties imposed upon him by law.” Bennett, 892 F.2d at 823 (citing In re Cochise College Park, Inc., 703 F.2d 1339, 1357 (9th Cir.1983)).


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