High Public Official Immunity

In Hall v. Kiger, 795 A.2d 497 (Pa. Cmwlth.), appeal denied, 572 Pa. 713, 813 A.2d 846 (2002), the court held that, because the duties conferred upon borough council members necessitate the exercise of both legislative and policy-making powers, persons in that position have the status of high public officials entitled to raise the defense of absolute privilege from suit. Moreover, the doctrine of high public official immunity is applicable to actions by public officials, not just defamatory statements. See: Durham v. McElynn, 565 Pa. 163, 772 A.2d 68 (2001) (applying doctrine to hold assistant district attorney immune from tort action for acts taken during the course of his prosecution that allegedly violated the constitutional rights of the accused); Holt v. Northwest Pennsylvania Training Partnership Consortium, Inc., 694 A.2d 1134 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1997) (applying doctrine to hold county commissioners acting in their official capacity immune from suit with regard to claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with contractual relations). Thus, Defendants qualify as high public officials under Pennsylvania law.