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Stalker Suit For Judicial Bias Dismissed
Description Municipal court judge who help plaintiffs amend complaint in criminal suit deemed a judicial act, not judicial bias; therefore subsequent defendant suit against judge for violation of civil rights dismissed because of absolute judicial immunity.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Judicial Immunity, Bias
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Scott Barnes was first married to Carolyn Barnes then later to Johnida Barnes. Scott and Johnida separated and Scott got back with Carolyn. They filed criminal complaints against Johnida, asserting that she was stalking them (a misdemeanor in Ohio). When Scott and Carolyn appeared before Municipal Court Judge Winchell, he directed them to change the charges against Johnida. He further assisted them in filing complaints against Johnida, who was arrested. The county prosecutor determined that the complaints against Johnida should be dismissed as frivolous. Winchell refused to dismiss the case and was then removed from the case by a superior judge because of his apparent bias against Johnida and because he acted as a prosecutor. Charges against Johnida were dismissed. She sued Judge Winchell for violation of her civil rights.
Lower Court Decision Winchell moved to have the case dismissed; the district court judge refused. Winchell appealed.
Court of Appeals Decision Reversed. Winchell's actions in helping Scott and Carolyn amend their complaints was within his general duty to receive documents and qualified as a "judicial act" which results in absolute judicial immunity. Case must be dismissed.
Citation Barnes v. Winchell, 105 F.3d 1111 (6th Cir., 1997)

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