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Legal News: Legal Pad | LA
U.S. Supreme Court to hear prosecutor immunity case
By Jason Siegel
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley and others petitioned for the high court to hear a case where an L.A. man, wrongfully convicted murder, sued former D.A. John Van de Kamp and his former chief deputy, Curt Livesay, for failing to set up guidelines for using jailhouse informants. The 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruled that they were not immune because the suit had to do with their role as office managers, not as prosecutors.
Cooley, the California District Attorneys Association and the National District Attorneys Association appealed to the high court that this undermines prosecutors' absolute immunity and would encourage a huge amount of lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1972's Imbler vs. Pachtman that prosecutors have "absolute immunity" from lawsuits, citing a centuries long precedent in English law.
Thomas Goldstein, a Marine Corps veteran from Long Beach, spent 24 years in prison, due to a jail house informant claiming Goldstein confessed to him. The informant falsely claimed did get any benefit in exchange for his testimony.
Goldstein told the Los Angeles Times that the suit should only apply to prosecutors who appear in court, not supervisors that set county policies. "[The case] would put every prosecutor's office on notice they need to establish an information management system for informants. And that will result in fewer wrongful convictions," Goldstein told the Times.
Oral arguments are scheduled for the fall.
"Justices Accept Question of Prosecutors as Lawyers or Managers", The New York Times
"Supreme Court to hear Los Angeles County district attorney immunity case," The Los Angeles Times
"Court to rule on suing ex-D.A.," The Associated Press
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