Gross v. Rell
Individuals and actors can be entitled to quasi-judicial immunity from suit, to protect the judicial process. The elderly plaintiff, Daniel Gross, resided in New York and decided to obtain medical treatment in Waterbury, Conn., where his child lived. A hospital worker filed a request that the Waterbury Probate Court appoint Gross a conservator. In response, the Probate Court appointed Jonathan Newman as his attorney and involuntary conservator. It appointed Kathleen Donovan as a conservator of his person and estate. Allegedly, Kathleen Donovan placed Gross in a locked ward in a nursing facility, and the nursing facility restricted Gross' visits with his child. Gross filed a petition to the Connecticut Superior Court for a writ of habeas corpus. Previously, a Superior Court judge found that the conservatorship constituted a "miscarriage of justice" and granted the writ of habeas corpus. Gross sued Jonathan Newman, Kathleen Donovan and the nursing facility in District Court, alleging that they violated his civil rights. The District Court found that these defendants were entitled to quasi-judicial immunity. Gross appealed to the 2nd Circuit. The 2nd Circuit certified questions concerning quasi-judicial immunity to the Connecticut Supreme Court, which opined that generally convervators and nursing facilities are entitled to quasi-judicial immunity only for acts approved or authorized by the Probate Court. The Connecticut Supreme Court wrote that when conservators act pursuant to the Probate Court's authorization or approval, "they function as the Probate Court." As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, the 2nd Circuit found that the nursing facility did not act as the Probate Court's agent, when it complied with the conservator's instructions, and that the nursing facility was not entitled to quasi-judicial immunity. The 2nd Circuit vacated the judgment of the District Court with respect to federal claims against the conservators and the nursing facility and remanded.