LOCATION: Randon Bragdon's Dental Office
DOCKET NO.: 96-792
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
CITATION: 522 US 118 (1997)
ARGUED: Oct 07, 1997
DECIDED: Dec 10, 1997
Norman Maleng - on behalf of the Petitioner
Particia A. Millett - for United States as amicus curiae
Patricia A. Millett - on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the Respondent
Timothy K. Ford - on behalf of the Respondent
Facts of the case
Lynne Kalina, a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for King County, Washington, commenced criminal proceedings against Rodney Fletcher, in connection with a school robbery, by filing the appropriate documents. Included in those documents was a "Certification for Determination of Probable Cause." Based on the certification, the trial court found probable cause, and Fletcher was arrested. Kalina's certification contained two inaccurate factual statements: that Fletcher had "never been associated with the school in any manner and did not have permission to enter the school or to take any property," and that Fletcher had been identified asking for an appraisal of a computer stolen from the school. Subsequently, Fletcher sued Kalina for damages, alleging that she had violated his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizures. The Federal District Court denied her motion for summary judgment, holding that she was not entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity and that whether qualified immunity would apply was a question of fact. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Does the doctrine of absolute prosecutorial immunity protect a prosecutor for making false statements of fact in an affidavit supporting an application for an arrest warrant against a damages remedy under 42 USC section 1983?
Media for Kalina v. FletcherAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 07, 1997 in Kalina v. Fletcher
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 10, 1997 in Kalina v. Fletcher
John Paul Stevens:
This case rises out of the burglary of some computer equipments form a school in King Country, Washington.
Respondent was charged with that crime, arrested and spent a day in jail before the charges against him were dismissed.
The petitioner is the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the County who prepared the case against the respondent.
In supportive promotion for an arrest warrant, she personally executed an affidavit that summarized the bases for the burglary charge.
Unfortunately, in that affidavit she made a two important misstatements: First after stating that the respondent's fingerprints had been found on the glass partition in the area work from which the computer equipment was stolen.
She stated that he had never been authorized to entered the promises before when in fact he had been actually worked on the installation of the glass partition on which his fingerprints were found and secondly, she said that he had been identified by a person in electronics store which he asked to appraise the stolen equipment when in fact that person had identified someone else.
So, based on those mistakes respondent and brought to sued for damages against her, claiming that she had violated his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizures.
The petitioner defended the case on the ground that as a prosecutor she was entitled absolute immunity.
The District Court and Court of Appeals rejected the defense, and we are granted certiorari to resolve the conflict in the Circuits on the basic question.
Our cases make it clear that the a prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity when she was acting as an advocate for the state in judicial proceeding, that immunity protected the petitioner in her action in this case in drafting the various papers that were brought to commence the proceeding and in filing those and in appearing in court.
But the critical question in this particular case is whether that immunity also protected her when she personally swore to the truth of the false statements of fact in the certificate she filed with the court.
When in other words she was performing the function with complaining witness, rather than that of an advocate.
For reasons stated in the unanimous opinion filed with the Clerk, we agree with the Court of Appeals, that in so far as she acted as such a witness, she was not entitled to absolute immunity, and therefore, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
Justice Scalia has filed a concurring opinion,in which Justice Thomas has joined.