A federal court recently told a Lawrence County woman she’s simply out of luck and can’t sue local officials, including a Common Pleas judge who apparently made up a criminal charge that was used to place her on electronic monitoring.
A judge has absolute civil immunity, even if the action “was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his authority,” the three-judge panel ruled in its six-page opinion.
Judge Thomas Piccione had ordered Lynn Van Tassel to report to jail after she didn’t pay her ex-husband’s attorney’s fees as ordered — even though she was appealing that order. He sentenced her to 90 days in jail and had her arrested on a bench warrant.
He then put a criminal charge in the system to place her on electronic monitoring. Van Tassel had never been charged with anything, much less had a trial or been convicted. And the law the judge used clearly describes what it’s for, and there’s certainly no mention of using it to collect attorney fees.
Van Tassel was almost fired for being absent without leave from work because she was in jail and the criminal charge she could provide no paperwork for, because that process hadn’t occurred in any real-world way.
But there’s no remedy for Van Tassel.
Like a bad April Fool’s Day joke, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit officially agreed April 1 with the district court’s tossing of the case.