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LawCrossing Legal Daily News Feature

Supreme Court: Private Attorney Hired by a City Can Claim Legal Immunity On Tuesday, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that private attorneys and other experts temporarily hired by a city to aid in investigations can assert immunity from lawsuits alleging constitutional violations and seeking damages. The lawyer who benefited from the judgment was backed on the issue by the Obama administration, 27 states, the American Bar Association and many other groups representing cities, mayors and state legislatures from around the country. The decision affected the entire nation.


Though a federal judge dismissed Delia’s lawsuit, the appeals court ruled that Delia could only proceed

The finding of the Supreme Court that individuals

against Filarsky, as in the capacity of a private

temporarily retained by the government are entitled

attorney, Filarsky could not claim the legal immunity

to the same level of immunity (in relation to the work

that could be claimed by public employees on the case.

done for the government) that was enjoyed by their public employee counterparts is commendable. It also

The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the appeals

strengthens the arms of government authorities to

court and held that the lower court (the high court in

hire subject experts on contingency basis and provide

this case) was right in asserting that individuals hired

appropriate state attention to matters based on

by government are not barred from immunity solely


on the ground that they are not permanent public employees.

The case of Filarsky v. Delia originated from the act of the city of Rialto, California, hiring Steve Filarsky, a

Writing for the unanimous bench, Chief Justice John

private attorney, to probe the possible misuse of sick

Roberts wrote that providing immunity to those hired

leaves by city employees. After the investigation was

temporarily, allowed the government to attract subject

over, Nicholas Delia, a firefighter accused of improperly

experts and served public interest.

taking sick leaves, sued Filarsky. While on medical leave, Delia was captured on video as buying fiberglass

Supporters of Filarsky said that the decision helped

insulation at a home improvement store. Filarsky

cities and counties to access subject expertise on a

probed Delia about the insulation in course of the

case-by-case basis without being saddled with a limited


number of permanently employed subject experts and without limiting options available to the government.

Two department officers, under order of the fire chief went to Delia’s house to confiscate the unopened rolls

The Supreme Court case is Filarsky v. Delia, No 10-

of insulation as evidence. Ultimately city officials closed


the case against Delia. However, Delia claimed the search was unconstitutional and sued the city, the fire department, and Filarsky.


Supreme Court: Private Attorney Hired by a City Can Claim Legal Immunity  

Supreme Court rules private attorneys and individuals temporarily hired by government can claim the same legal immunity as public employees.

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