High Court Says Temporary Government Worker Can Be Immune From Suit

A private sector employee hired temporarily to do government work may have qualified immunity from a civil rights lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled April 17.

In this case, a city had hired a private attorney to perform temporary work. When a city firefighter sued the attorney along with the fire department and other individuals, the attorney asserted qualified immunity.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, ruled that only full time government employees can have qualified immunity. As a temporary hire, therefore, this attorney could not.

But the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that ruling.

Common law principles of immunity were incorporated into Section 1983 and should not be abrogated absent clear legislative intent, the court explained. Immunity under Section 1983 should therefore not vary depending on whether an individual working for the government does so as a permanent or full-time employee, or on some other basis.

The case is Filarsky v. Delia.

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