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High court to decide lawyer immunity question

•  National News     updated  2011/09/27 08:43


The Supreme Court will decide whether private lawyers hired as outside counsels for governments can be sued.

The high court on Tuesday agreed to hear lawyer Steve Filarsky's appeal. He was hired by the city of Rialto, Calif., to investigate the possible misuse of sick leave.

Nicholas B. Delia, a firefighter suspected of working on his house while on sick leave, sued Filarsky after the investigation. Delia had said he had bought material to work on his house but never opened it. The fire chief then ordered Delia to bring the unopened material out of his house for inspection or face disciplinary action.

Delia said that order was an unconstitutional warrantless search and sued the city, the fire department and Filarsky.

A federal judge threw it all of Delia's lawsuits out, including the one against Filarsky. The judge ruled that Filarsky had the same immunity as the city's employees.

But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying its rulings had never extended to a nongovernment worker the same immunity government workers enjoy. A separate appeals court — the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — has extended immunity to nongovernment employees.

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