“Following Sparkman and Dennis, the Supreme Court not only narrowed the definition of a judicial act but also limited the type of suits from which judicial immunity shields judges. In Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522 (1984), the Court considered whether judicial immunity bars injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as legal fees associated with gaining that relief. In Pulliam, a county magistrate judge allegedly incarcerated persons for ‘nonjailable offenses.’ The plaintiffs claimed this was unconstitutional, and both the district court and the Fourth Circuit agreed, granting the injunction and awarding costs and attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs. Justice Blackmun, writing for the majority, noted that the question of attorney’s fees must follow the more fundamental question of whether a court can enjoin another court from performing a judicial act. Although rarely awarded, the courts of appeals prior to Pulliam generally held that absolute judicial immunity did not bar injunctive relief and, in Pulliam, the Supreme Court agreed. The Court engaged in a lengthy discussion of the common law and determined that injunctive relief was available against judges in England. Similarly, American courts ‘never have had a rule of absolute judicial immunity from prospective relief.’ The Court noted that the concerns with granting injunctive relief against a judge were distinct from those alleviated by protecting judges from damages. Further, the Court noted that the hurdles for obtaining equitable relief are sufficiently high to guard against harassment of judges and the chance of compromising judicial independence is lower in the case of injunctions.”

Source: Timothy M. Stengel. “Absolute Judicial Immunity Makes Absolutely No Sense. An Argument For An Exception To Judicial Immunity.” 84 Temple Law Review 1071, 1081-1082. 2012.

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