De-Immunizing Convicted Judges: A Proposed Amendment to the Civil RICO Statute, Title 18 Section 1964

Posted: 10 Nov 2009

See all articles by Matthew Myer

Matthew Myer

William and Mary School of Law

Date Written: October 1, 2009


In numerous cases following Randall v. Brigham in 1868 and Bradley v. Fisher in 1871, the United States Supreme Court has granted judges broad absolute immunity for all acts they have taken within their jurisdiction. The breadth of absolute judicial immunity is justified by numerous public policies. The policy arguments supporting judicial immunity are so strong that there are only two recognized exceptions to the doctrine.

Two cases pending before the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, however, demonstrate the need for Congress to act to provide a third exception. The conspiracy at the center of these criminal and civil cases is alleged to be the largest instance of judicial corruption in American history. This Note argues that the policy justifications behind absolute judicial immunity do not apply to racketeering acts a judge performs within his or her jurisdiction as part of his or her judicial function.

The Note proposes that Congress amend the Civil RICO statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1964, to establish a third exception to judicial immunity. The Note includes the text of the amendment it proposes and argues that if Congress would enact the amendment before the conclusion of the civil case now pending in Pennsylvania, and if Congress would make clear its intent for the amendment to have retroactive effect, the amendment, when triggered, would remove immunity protection from the judges’ non-administrative acts.

Keywords: judicial immunity, absolute immunity, absolute judicial immunity, judicial function, luzerne, ciavarella, conahan, kids for cash, clear absence of all jurisdiction, judicial act

Suggested Citation

Myer, Matthew, De-Immunizing Convicted Judges: A Proposed Amendment to the Civil RICO Statute, Title 18 Section 1964 (October 1, 2009). Available at SSRN:

Matthew Myer (Contact Author)

William and Mary School of Law ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

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