Sometimes attorneys can make costly mistakes, and it is often their clients that pay the price for those mistakes. Before you try to bring a malpractice suit against your old attorney, however, it’s important to know when the state of California – and the federal government – grant immunity to an attorney from malpractice suits.
Public defenders have immunity
United States federal law gives immunity to judicial officers for acts taken in connection with their judicial capacity. What this means is that you can’t bring a lawsuit against a judicial officer for doing the job the court hired them to do. Public defenders are considered judicial officers while they’re representing a criminal defendant that the court granted legal assistance to.
This doesn’t mean that you can never bring a malpractice suit against a public defender. All it means is that your suit cannot be based on that public defender doing something that is a normal part of their job.
In other words, if you are assigned a public defender, and they take actions that violate your rights – and that go above and beyond their traditional duties as a public defender – then you might be able to bring a malpractice suit against them. But if their actions were in line with their assigned duties, then they likely have immunity.
A civil attorney can sometimes have immunity as well
Sometimes, courts will hold that an attorney is immune from suit from third parties for actions they took while representing their clients. These types of actions are typically things that further their clients’ interests, even if they inconvenience other parties to the case.
Although this type of immunity won’t be an issue for you if you are seeking to sue your own attorney for malpractice, it could arise from the conduct of other parties’ attorneys, such as co-plaintiffs or co-defendants.
Legal malpractice suits are an important tool for protecting our rights. They serve to hold attorneys accountable for their actions, and to ensure that they act in the best interest of those they serve. Knowing when an attorney is immune before you try to bring a suit can save you time and money.