Legal Memorandum: Doctrine of Qualified Immunity in UT

Issue: When is it appropriate to shield a defendant from liability for violations of a plaintiff’s constitutional rights by using the doctrine of qualified immunity?

Area of Law: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Constitutional Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Qualified immunity; Deprivation of a constitutional right; Confidentiality in mediation
Jurisdiction: Federal, Utah
Cited Cases: 177 P.3d 605
Cited Statutes: Utah Code section 78-31b-8(4)
Date: 06/01/2011


Qualified immunity is “an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability; and like an absolute immunity, it is effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to go to trial.”  “When evaluating a claim of qualified immunity, we ‘must first determine whether the plaintiff has alleged the deprivation of a constitutional right at all, and if so, proceed to determine whether that right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation.'”

“In assessing whether the right was clearly established, we ask whether the right was sufficiently clear that a reasonable government officer in the defendant’s shoes would understand that what he or she did violated that right.”  “The law is clearly established when a Supreme Court or Tenth Circuit decision is on point, or if the clearly established weight of authority from other courts shows that the right must be as plaintiff maintains.”

AH Aero Servs., LLC v. Ogden City, No. 1:05-cv-66 (D. Utah. Aug. 31, 2007) (citations omitted) (Judge Campbell concluding that the defendant was not entitled to immunity because the law was clearly established at the time of the retaliation).  Accord, Tri-State Contractors, Inc. v. Fagnant, 393 F. App’x 580, 583 (10th Cir. 2010).

The Utah Supreme Court affirmed what had already been the standard of law regarding confidentiality in mediation:  communications held during such negotiations or discussions are confidential and cannot be unilaterally disclosed or relied upon […]

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