Wade McCree Jr. lost his job, but he won’t lose his shirt.
The disgraced judge — who once texted a shirtless photo of himself to a female court bailiff — had an affair with a woman while overseeing her child custody case, had sex with her in his chambers and sexted her from the bench.
Be he can’t be sued for money damages over any of that because judges are immune from civil lawsuits — a well-established doctrine that has many in the legal profession demanding change, arguing the McCree case highlights a pervasive problem in the justice system: judges getting away with bad behavior on immunity grounds.
“There has to be a point where there is no immunity for judges. When we’re told that certain government officials are off limits — it undermines public confidence in government,” said Connecticut civil rights attorney Norm Pattis, author of “Taking Back the Courts,” a 2011 bookthat documents flaws in the justice system.
“I don’t think anybody should be above the law, least of all those who administer it,” said Pattis, who called the immunity doctrine “a crazy rule” and the McCree case “outrageous.”
“It’s sort of a medieval relic to suggest that the king can do no wrong, so why sue them,”Pattis said.
And McCree did plenty wrong, said Detroit attorney Joel Sklar. He’s preparing to take the McCree case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has long held that judges are immune from lawsuits for their acts and decisions, even unconstitutional ones. The idea is to help judges stay impartial.
Last Monday, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals cited that philosophy in concluding that McCree could not be sued by the father of his mistress’ child, even though his actions were “often reprehensible.”