Monell theoretically applies to suing a court system as well

Anyone familiar with our court system is familiar with the fact that pro se litigants who sue in Federal court are routinely denied relief no matter how valid their claims, especially in the case of judicial officers who are deemed to have qualified immunity, no matter what the circumstances and if they violate all defined policies and legal standards in their “discretion”.

The Monell standard is based on a Federal case which held that governing bodes are not immune to section 1983 claims. The case stated: “Local governing bodies (and local officials sued in their official capacities) can, therefore, be sued directly under § 1983 for monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief in those situations where, as here, the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted or promulgated by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy. In addition, local governments, like every other § 1983 “person,” may be sued for constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to governmental “custom” even though such custom has not received formal approval through the government’s official decision making channels. Pp. 436 U. S. 690-691.”

By definition according to governmental code 810 and 811.9 judicial officers are employees of the state, i.e. Government of the State of California.

810. "Employee" includes an officer, judicial officer as defined
in Section 327 of the Elections Code, employee, or servant, whether
or not compensated, but does not include an independent contractor.
811.9.  (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, judges,
subordinate judicial officers, and court executive officers of the superior courts 
are state officers for purposes of Part 1

Basically folks by definition state officials can be sued if they violate all legal standards and defined policies codified in the legislature, merely to teach a litigant a lesson or sanction litigants with their children or don’t abide by the official policy of this State to PRESERVE a parent-child relationship.

According to the Monell standard immunity does not apply.


4 comments on “Monell theoretically applies to suing a court system as well

  1. When acting outside scope of discretion, no employee of the state, county, courts, etc. is immune. Ex Parte Virginia. California officials have no discretion to violate state constitutional rights. Art. I sec. 26. Any CA state employee violating rights has no immunity, period, regardless of Stump/Mireless.

  2. Indeed! and that also applies to the respective presiding judges who willfully fail to perform their duties as a presiding judge by ignoring litigants’ complaints and refusing to investigate and thus cover up acts of fraud upon the court, human, civil and constitutional rights abuses committed by their colleagues. When a judge has a duty to act, he does not have discretion – he is then not performing a judicial act, he is performing a ministerial act.
    Judicial immunity does not exist for judges who engage in criminal activity, for judges who connive with, aid and abet the criminal activity of another judge, or to a judge for damages sustained by a person who has been harmed by the judge’s connivance with, aiding and abeting, another judge’s criminal activity.

  3. Sorry, but I think there is a problem with suing a court system under Monell. The problem is sovereign immunity, the principle that a state government – and courts are part of state, not county government – can only be sued if it consents to be sued. Every state, I think, has passed state laws in which it waives sovereign immunity for tort claims. So, for example, you can sue if the state highway dept leaves an excavation uncovered and you, a motorist, drive into it. However, the federal courts – and civil rights actions under Monell are in federal court – have rejected claims that the states waived sovereign immunity unless the waiver statute specifically identifies civil rights claims under 42 USC 1983 etc as being waived. In Washington State, where I practice law, the sovereign immunity waiver is not specific enough to allow civil rights lawsuit against a court system through Monell.

    This is too bad, because in my county, the Superior Count has been violating fundamental parental rights for years through an informal policy of granting temporary custody of children to nonparents without notice to the parents or a hearing. This is despite a state law that prohibits the practice. In my opinion, the only remedy is a voter-sponsored initiative to amend the sovereign immunity waiver statute to specifically waive sovereign immunity for courts in federal civil rights cases.

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