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Supreme Court Affirms Qualified Immunity in Filarsky, as ABA Brief Urged


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Supreme Court Affirms Qualified Immunity in Filarsky, as ABA Brief Urged

By Daniel Buchanan

CHICAGO, April 17, 2012 – The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling Tuesday in Filarsky v. Delia affirmed that outside lawyers retained to do government legal work are entitled to the same immunity from related lawsuits as government employees. In its amicus brief in the case, the American Bar Association urged this position as necessary to protect the public interest.

“State and local governments frequently must retain private counsel for the effective and efficient performance of core governmental functions,” the ABA brief stated. Denying qualified immunity to outside lawyers from lawsuits stemming from their government work would deter them from representing public entities and “significantly impact the vital contributions that private attorneys make to effective government performance. On the other hand, ensuring qualified immunity would promote the strong public interest in the continuing representation of public entities by private counsel,” the ABA concluded.

The brief is available here.

Expert commentary is available from Robert H. Thomas, a member of the ABA Section of State and Local Government Law who was of counsel on the brief. He may be reached at 808-292-9938, or

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the world’s largest voluntary professional membership organization. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

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