Ferri v. Ackerman

LOCATION: Elkhart, Indiana

DOCKET NO.: 78-5981
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

CITATION: 444 US 193 (1979)
ARGUED: Oct 02, 1979
DECIDED: Dec 04, 1979

John P. Arness - on behalf of the Respondent
Julian N. Eule - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Ferri v. Ackerman

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 02, 1979 in Ferri v. Ackerman

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 04, 1979 in Ferri v. Ackerman

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Ferri against Ackerman will be announced by Mr. Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

The petitioner was convicted of a federal crime and thereafter brought a suit against his lawyer claiming that the lawyer had been guilty of malpractice in defending him in the criminal trial.

The lawyer who had been appointed under the Criminal Justice Act claimed that he was entitled to absolute immunity from tort liability.

The Pennsylvania courts upheld this defense.

In its opinion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court explained that it believe that federal law required it to a court absolute immunity to defense counsel appointed pursuant to the federal statute.

We disagree.

We hold that federal law is not controlling and that Pennsylvania may decide for itself whether the defense of immunity should be recognized by the Pennsylvania courts in a malpractice action founded on state law.

Accordingly, for reasons more fully set forth in the unanimous opinion filed with the clerk today, we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and remand this case to that court to determine the immunity question as the matter of state law.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Stevens.