Arkansas: House approves 89-0 bill to allow for judges who take bribes to be personally sued including punitive damages; would remove judicial immunity in such instances

A bill first discussed here that would allow for those harmed by judges who take bribes to seize the judge’s personal assets has cleared the Arkansas House unanimously on an 89-0 vote

HB 1007 as amended provides that where a judge was either found or pleaded guilty to bribery in a case a party who had an adverse ruling against them as a result of the bribe could sue to recover not only compensatory damages but punitive as well from the judge personally. Judicial immunity, which generally provides a judge’s personal assets cannot be taken for an official judicial act, would be removed.

As introduced, HB 1007 would also have included instances where 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.

HB 1007 has been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.