Legal Memorandum: Perjury, Subornation or Conspiracy Actions in MS

Issue: In Mississippi, when can a plaintiff successfully assert a cause of action based primarily on perjury, subornation or conspiracy?

Area of Law: Criminal Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Perjury, subornation or conspiracy; Cause of action
Jurisdiction: Mississippi
Cited Cases: 23 N.E.2d 180; 439 So. 2d 316; 459 U.S. 1092; 497 F. Supp. 637; 371 N.Y.S.2d 884; 333 N.E.2d 163; 129 N.Y.S.2d 588; 235 N.Y.S.2d 457
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2001

Although no Mississippi cases were found, decisions from jurisdictions that have considered the issue hold unanimously that no civil cause of action will lie for perjury.  E.g., Alberta Gas Chems., Ltd. v. Celanese Corp., 497 F. Supp. 637, 638 (S.D.N.Y. 1980), aff’d, 697 F.2d 287 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1092 (1982); Perl v. Omni Int’l, Ltd., 439 So. 2d 316, 317-318 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1983).  See generally Annotation, Testimony of Witness as Basis of Civil Action for Damages, 54 A.L.R.2d 1298.

Similarly, courts in most states do not recognize civil actions for either subornation of perjury (e.g., Agnew v. Parks, 343 P.2d 118, 124 (Cal. Ct. App. 1959); Dean v. Kirkland, 23 N.E.2d 180, 186 (Ill. Ct. App. 1939); see generally 60A Am. Jur. 2d Perjury § 132) or conspiracy to commit perjury (e.g., Ragsdale v. Watson, 201 F. Supp. 495, 501-03 (W.D. Ark. 1962); see generally Annotation, Actionability of Conspiracy to Give or to Procure False Testimony or Other Evidence, 31 A.L.R.3d 1423.

The rationale behind denying independent civil relief for perjury is that all testimony given in a judicial proceeding—even if false or malicious—is protected by absolute privilege.  31 A.L.R.3d at 1423.  Moreover, the losing party does have a remedy:  a direct appeal in the case where the alleged perjury occurs, and criminal prosecution of perjurers.  Ragsdale, 201 F. Supp. at 503.

Unfortunately, there appear to be fewer exceptions to […]

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