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Prosecutor Not Entitled to Immunity for Statements to Press

On November 17, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part judgment for a prosecutor, warden, and other prison staff member accused of various constitutional violations.

Woodson Hart sued prosecutor Kenneth Hodges after Hodges deliberately circumvented a state trial judge’s order directing that Hart be released following service of a federal sentence. Hodges arranged for Hart to be picked up by local authorities after Hart finished his federal sentence. Local police later released Hart after they were made aware of the judge’s order.

Nevertheless, Hodges directed Hart to surrender to a Georgia prison for service of a state sentence asserting that the trial judge’s order directing that Hart had no time to serve was null and void as a result of Hodge’s pending appeal to the court’s order.

Meanwhile, Hodges made defamatory statements about Hart to the media. Hart surrendered to the Georgia prison, but was released after 28.5 hours of incarceration.

The district court held Hodges and the other defendants were entitled to absolute immunity. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed partially. The court held that Hodges was not entitled to immunity for his statements to the press. Additionally, the court held that the warden and other prison staff member were not entitled to absolute immunity because their conduct was not related to a judicial proceeding.

See: Hart v. Hodges, 587 F.3d 1288 (11th Cir. 2009).

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Related legal case

Hart v. Hodges