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Immunity for the King, Prosecutors and Smithsonian, Too

We'll admit to being amused by the phrase "jerked on her lanyard" in a Washington Post story about a personal injury lawsuit against a Smithsonian executive, but the article also highlights an application of the Federal Tort Claims Act that comes up with some frequency inside the Beltway. From "Suit Against Smithsonian Executive Dismissed":

The suit by former custodian Mary T. Majano against Smithsonian Business Ventures Vice President Jeanny Kim was tossed out late Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, who found that Kim was covered by a law that protects some federal employees from injury lawsuits.

Collyer determined that Majano had exaggerated the violence of the encounter, but she also said that "neither was the incident as tame as Ms. Kim would like to portray; she was definitely angry and rude to Ms. Majano."

The court's ruling is available here as a .pdf file; Ms. Kim comes off better than in the Post story.

In other sovereign immunity news, Radley Balko of Reason analyzes the issues raised by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear Goldstein v. City of Long Beach on appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Thomas Goldstein spent 24 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit, a conviction based on testimoy from jailhouse snitches. Goldstein is suing John Van de Camp, the district attorney who supervised that prosecutor for violating his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Balko concludes in "Suing the DA":

We shouldn't allow every aggrieved defendant to sue his prosecutor. But in cases where someone is exonerated after being convicted of a crime, where there's clear evidence that something went terribly wrong at trial, and certainly where a single prosecutor has overseen more than one exoneration, allowing civil rights suits against these government officials in their capacity as government employees might shine some needed--if uncomfortable--sunlight on a part of the criminal justice system that has for too long been immune from real accountability.
More on the Goldstein case at WSJ Law Blog and Los Angeles Times.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.