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Do Private Lawyers Hired by Gov't Get Immunity?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 01, 2012 5:02 AM

If you work with municipal governments, listen up. The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Filarsky v. Delia, and its pending decision may affect the way you do your job.

The justices were asked to decide whether a private lawyer hired to conduct a municipality's internal affairs investigation is entitled to the same immunity as government employees.

The Court's reception to the premise was mixed.

Justice Sotomayor and Chief Justice Roberts questioned whether private lawyers need special protection, reports the New York Times. Technically, the absence of immunity should not impact an attorney's duty to provide the best advice.

Alternatively, Justice Scalia signaled that he favors immunity. He believes "there's a lot of bad, cowardly legal advice being given in the Ninth Circuit."

Filarsky v. Delia is yet another 9th Circuit case up for review. The appellate court declined to grant private attorney Steve Filarsky immunity from a suit filed by the subject of his investigation -- Nicholas Delia, a firefighter in Rialto, Calif. It only extended immunity to the permanent government employees involved.

Both the American Bar Association and the U.S. government disagree with this outcome, according to Reuters. They've urged the Supreme Court to extend immunity so that private attorneys can "serve the public good effectively and without undue fear of personal liability."

There's concern that fewer private attorneys will partner with government agencies if the 9th Circuit's decision is upheld.

Is this a valid fear? Will Filarsky v. Delia affect the advice you give or the jobs you  take?

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