812 F.2d 1103 (9th Cir. 1987), 84-6448, Greater Los Angeles Council on Deafness, Inc. v. Zolin

Docket Nº:84-6448.
Citation:812 F.2d 1103
Party Name:GREATER LOS ANGELES COUNCIL ON DEAFNESS, INC.; Barbara U. Sheridan and Joy Anne Maucere, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Frank S. ZOLIN, individually and as Jury Commissioner for the County of Los Angeles; Raymond F. Arce, individually and as Director of Juror Services for the County of Los Ang
Case Date:March 11, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Page 1103

812 F.2d 1103 (9th Cir. 1987)

GREATER LOS ANGELES COUNCIL ON DEAFNESS, INC.; Barbara U.

Sheridan and Joy Anne Maucere, individually and on

behalf of all others similarly situated,

Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Frank S. ZOLIN, individually and as Jury Commissioner for

the County of Los Angeles; Raymond F. Arce, individually

and as Director of Juror Services for the County of Los

Angeles; County of Los Angeles; Superior Court of the

State of California for the County of Los Angeles,

Defendants-Appellees.

No. 84-6448.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 11, 1987

Submission Vacated Jan. 29, 1986. Argued and Submitted Dec. 3, 1985.

Submission Vacated Jan. 29, 1986.

Ordered Resubmitted April 25, 1986.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Stanley Fleishman, Los Angeles, Cal., for plaintiffs-appellants.

De Witt W. Clinton, Frederick R. Bennett, Deputy, Los Angeles, Cal., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Before FLETCHER, PREGERSON and CANBY, Circuit Judges.

CANBY, Circuit Judge:

The Greater Los Angeles Council on Deafness (GLAD) and deaf individuals Barbara Sheridan and Joy Ann Maucere appeal an adverse judgment in their suit against Los Angeles County, its superior court, its jury commissioner, Frank Zolin, and its director of juror services, Raymond Arce. Appellants sought monetary, injunctive and declaratory relief after county officials refused to provide, at public expense, sign-language interpreters ("interpreters") to enable deaf individuals to serve as jurors. This refusal, appellants argue, violates their fourteenth amendment rights to equal protection and due process, as well as statutory rights under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 794 (1982), and Cal.Gov't Code Sec. 11135 (West 1980). 1

BACKGROUND

The facts are not disputed. On January 1, 1981, a change in California law made hearing-impaired as well as other handicapped persons competent to serve as jurors. Cal.Civ.Proc.Code Secs. 198, 205 (West 1982). 2 In March 1981, appellants Sheridan and Maucere received summonses to appear for jury service in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Both women sent letters to the court explaining that their ability to serve depended on whether the court would provide them with interpreters at public expense. 3 Appellee Arce responded that there was no provision for payment of an interpreter and excused them from jury service.

In August and September 1981, GLAD paid more than $2000 for an interpreter to assist Nathan Shapiro, a deaf person who served as an alternate juror in a civil trial for 22 days. After unsuccessfully seeking reimbursement from the County for this expense, GLAD, joined by appellants Sheridan and Maucere, brought this action. After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment for defendants. See Greater Los Angeles Council on Deafness, Inc. v. Zolin, 607 F.Supp. 175 (C.D.Cal.1984) (hereinafter GLAD ). The court later confirmed its ruling by denying plaintiffs' motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), and plaintiffs brought this timely appeal. We now affirm in part, reverse in part and remand.

DISCUSSION

I. THE CLAIM UNDER SECTION 504

A. Section 504

Section 504 by its terms prohibits discrimination against handicapped persons in

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programs receiving federal financial support. 4 As the district court stated, section 504 was enacted as a general civil rights provision for the handicapped, designed " 'to prevent discrimination against all handicapped individuals ... in employment, housing, transportation, education, health services, or any other Federally-aided programs.' " GLAD, 607 F.Supp. at 180 (quoting S.Rep. No. 1297, 93rd Cong., 1st Sess. reprinted in 1974 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 6373, 6388). We have recognized a private right of action under section 504, Kling v. County of Los Angeles, 633 F.2d 876, 878 (9th Cir.1980), and plaintiffs suing under section 504 may pursue the full panoply of remedies, including equitable relief and monetary damages, see Kling v. County of Los Angeles, 769 F.2d 532, 534 (9th Cir.) (damages), rev'd on other grounds, --- U.S. ----, 106 S.Ct. 300, 88 L.Ed.2d 277 (1985); Kling, 633 F.2d at 879 (injunction); see also Bachman v. American Society of Clinical Pathologists, 577 F.Supp. 1257, 1262 (D.N.J.1983).

As the district court further noted, to prove a section 504 violation, the plaintiffs must show (1) that hearing-impaired people are "handicapped persons" under the Rehabilitation Act, (2) that they are "otherwise qualified" to serve as jurors, (3) that the relevant program is federally funded, and (4) that the refusal to provide interpreters prevents deaf people from serving as jurors. See Bentivegna v. U.S. Dep't. of Labor, 694 F.2d 619, 621 (9th Cir.1982).

The district court, however, never reached the ultimate question whether section 504 requires the defendants to provide sign-language interpreters for jurors serving in the Superior Courts. Although appellants urge us to decide that issue on this appeal, it would be inappropriate for us to do so when the district court has not addressed this issue. 5 The issues that are properly before us are those upon which the district court ruled in denying relief to appellants. We turn to them now.

B. Denial of Monetary Relief

The district court denied monetary relief because it found the defendants either shielded by immunity or uninvolved with the jury-selection process.

1. Quasi-judicial Immunity

The district court held that the individual defendants were immune from a damage award because they were shielded by absolute "quasi-judicial immunity." See, e.g., Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 2812, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985); Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430, 96 S.Ct. 984, 994-95, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976). The district court relied heavily on our decision in Pomerantz v. County of Los Angeles, 674 F.2d 1288, 1291 (9th Cir.1982). In Pomerantz, a case superficially similar to this case, blind citizens challenged their exclusion from Los Angeles County juries. We affirmed the district court's determination that the court officials were shielded by quasi-judicial immunity. It so happens that among the court officials who were found immune in Pomerantz are the very ones who are individual defendants here. We nonetheless disagree with the district court's ruling that defendants Arce and Zolin are entitled to an absolute immunity in this case. 6

When deciding whether a public official is immune from liability for acts performed in his official capacity, qualified immunity is the general rule and absolute immunity

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the exceptional case. See, e.g., Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 807, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2732, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982); Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 506-07, 98 S.Ct. 2894, 2910-11, 57 L.Ed.2d 895 (1978). The burden is on the official claiming the immunity to demonstrate that public policy requires recognition of an absolute immunity in his case. Harlow, 457 U.S. at 808, 102 S.Ct. at 2733; Butz, 438 U.S. at 506-07, 98 S.Ct. at 2910-11. It is well-settled that the immunity to which a public official is entitled depends not on the official's title or agency, but on the nature of the function that the person was performing when taking the actions that provoked the lawsuit. E.g., Mitchell, 105 S.Ct. at 2813; Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430, 96 S.Ct. at 994-95; Bothke v. Fluor Engineers & Constructors, Inc., 713 F.2d 1405, 1412 (9th Cir.1983), vacated on other grounds, 468 U.S. 1201, 104 S.Ct. 3566, 82 L.Ed.2d 867 (1984).

Quasi-judicial immunity, like judicial immunity, derives historically from the recognition that participation in the court system raises a significant risk of "entanglement in vexatious litigation." Mitchell, 105 S.Ct. at 2813. As the Supreme Court has recognized:

The judicial process is an arena of open conflict, and in virtually every case there is, if not always a winner, at least one loser. It is inevitable that many of those who lose will pin the blame on judges, prosecutors, or witnesses and will bring suit against them in an effort to relitigate the underlying conflict.

Id. Quite obviously, similar blame might also be pinned on other court officials variously responsible for assisting in an adjudication, such as the clerk of the court, or the persons responsible for selecting eligible potential jurors. Accordingly, we held in Pomerantz that the Los Angeles County Superior Court's jury administration personnel were entitled to quasi-judicial immunity for actions they performed in determining the eligibility of potential jurors to serve. See Pomerantz, 674 F.2d at 1290-91.

The district court here apparently believed that, as in Pomerantz, the individual defendants were engaged in the juror-selection process when the complained-of acts occurred. This was error.

In Pomerantz, the challenge was to defendants' exclusion of blind persons from juries as unqualified. By contrast, there exists no question here that the deaf plaintiffs are perfectly qualified to serve as jurors. The challenge is to defendants' determination that they need not provide these handicapped persons, defined by state statute to be generally eligible for jury service, with the reasonable accommodations necessary to permit them to participate in this important activity of citizenship.

Although the decisions challenged in this lawsuit were made in the course of defendants' official duties, they were not "an integral part of the judicial process," which has been seen as the lynchpin of both the judicial and quasi-judicial immunities. Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430, 96 S.Ct. at 994-95; see Mitchell, 105 S.Ct. at 2813; Richardson v. Koshiba, 693 F.2d 911, 914 (9th Cir.1982). The individual defendants' actions in issue here are...

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