Federal Civil Rights Case Public Official Immunity in Florida
In Tucker v. Resha, 648 So. 2d 1187 (Fla. 1994), the petitioner used a petition for writ of certiorari to seek interlocutory review of a non-final order denying a claim of qualified immunity in a federal civil rights case.
If the proceeding had been filed in federal court, the defendant could have sought immediate review of an order denying a motion for summary judgment based upon qualified immunity. See id.
After the trial court denied the motion for summary judgment, the First District recognized that there was no Florida rule of procedure that would permit the appeal and thus analyzed the claim under the framework applicable to a petition for writ of certiorari. Id.
The district court concluded that certiorari was improper because the trial court's order did not depart from the essential requirements of law. Id.
On rehearing, the district court certified to this Court the question of whether a public official raising a qualified immunity defense to a federal civil rights claim that was filed in state court was entitled to the same standard of review of the denial of her motion for summary judgment as is provided in federal courts. Id. at 1187.
On review of the First District's decision, this Court recognized the important policy reasons as to why interlocutory review should be available when a trial court denies a public official's claim to qualified immunity. Id. at 1189-90.
Based on these policy reasons, the Court held that an order denying summary judgment based upon a claim of qualified immunity in a federal civil rights case is subject to interlocutory review to the extent that the order turns on an issue of law. See id. at 1190.
In Tucker, the Court decided to amend rule 9.130 again, this time to provide for interlocutory appeal of a non-final order denying a public official's claim of qualified immunity in federal civil rights cases to the extent that the order turned on an issue of law. See Tucker, 648 So. 2d at 1190. This holding focused primarily on the consequences of such lost immunity. See id. at 1189-90.