Arkansas: Bills would allow parties to personally sue judges who take bribes

A proposal filed for the 2017 Arkansas legislation would remove judicial immunity, the principle that a judge cannot be sued in his or her personal capacity for official acts, in cases of bribery.

Under HB 1007 and SB 6 as filed a party could sue a judge if the judge made or influenced the adverse decision against a party as the result of bribery. The bribery would either have to be proven via

  1. a criminal proceeding in which the judge took a plea deal or was found guilty of bribery or
  2. the judge was fined, removed, or otherwise disciplined by the Supreme Court or the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission for bribery.

The bill appears to be a response to a case in 2015 involving Circuit Court Judge Michael Maggio. The former judge pleaded guilty in January 2015 to a federal charge that he accepted a bribe in exchange for reducing a negligence jury verdict. The plaintiffs in the negligence case then sued Maggio, but the case against the former judge was dismissed in March 2015 due to judicial immunity.