Legal Memorandum: Applicability of Official Immunity in HI

Issue: Under Hawaii law, when does official immunity insulate a defendant from liability for his or her exercise of administrative functions?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Official immunity; Liability; Exercise of administrative functions
Jurisdiction: Hawaii
Cited Cases: 940 F. Supp. 1523; 177 F.2d 579; 508 U.S. 429
Cited Statutes: Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-16; Fed. R. Civ. P. 15;
Date: 04/01/2001

           Quasi-judicial immunity protects a defendant only from liability arising from his or her performance of judicial functions.  “The touchstone for applicability of the absolute immunity doctrine is whether the official seeking immunity for his/her actions is ‘perform[ing] the function of resolving disputes between parties, or of authoritatively adjudicating private rights.'”  Reed v. Iranon, 940 F. Supp. 1523, 1527-28 (D. Hawaii 1996) (quoting Antoine v. Byers & Anderson, 508 U.S. 429, 435-46 (1993)).  The doctrine is intended to allow judicial decisions to be made without fear of retaliatory suits.  Id.  In Reed the court concluded that members of the parole board were entitled to quasi-judicial immunity for acts that were an integral part of the decision-making process.  It distinguished between those kinds of acts and those that are “purely administrative and ministerial.”  Id. at 1528.  Administrative and ministerial acts are not entitled to the absolute immunity given to judicial acts.  Id.

Immunity may also be claimed under the Uniform Information Practices Act.  The statute provides that “[a]nyone participating in good faith in the disclosure or nondisclosure of a government record shall be immune from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred, imposed or result from such acts or omissions.”  Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-16 (1996). “Ordinarily, whether a defendant acted in good faith cannot even be decided on a motion to dismiss.”  Franklin v. Oregon State Welfare Div., 662 F.2d 1337, 1346 (9th Cir. 1981) (denying motion to dismiss § 1983 claim).  As […]

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