Francis v. Crafts

Decision Date22 April 1953
Docket NumberNo. 4712.,4712.
Citation203 F.2d 809
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Isadore H. Y. Muchnick, Boston, Mass., for appellant.

Herbert L. Barrett, Boston, Mass., for appellee.

Before MAGRUDER, Chief Judge, and WOODBURY and HARTIGAN, Circuit Judges.

MAGRUDER, Chief Judge.

Here again is a complaint for damages under the Civil Rights Act, 8 U.S.C.A. § 43, filed in the court below pursuant to the jurisdictional provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3). The action was brought against a large number of officials of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including the present appellee, the Honorable Frederic A. Crafts, Special Justice of the Second District Court of Eastern Middlesex.

So far as concerns Judge Crafts, the complaint alleged that on March 19, 1940, in utter disregard of plaintiff's constitutional rights, this defendant, in his capacity as Special Justice of the Second District Court of Eastern Middlesex, sentenced the plaintiff, then 17 years of age, as a "defective delinquent", and ordered him committed to the custody of the superintendent of the State Farm at Bridgewater, Massachusetts; that this commitment was ordered in an ex parte proceeding, of which the plaintiff received no notice; that plaintiff was not present at the hearing before Judge Crafts nor represented there by counsel or any other person acting on his behalf; that by virtue of said commitment order he was restrained of his personal liberty at the State Farm until April 27, 1948, when he was by administrative action transferred to the Massachusetts Reformatory at Concord, where he remained incarcerated until he was ultimately released on November 28, 1951, as the result of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus addressed to the Superior Court for the County of Suffolk; that defendant Crafts, and his codefendants, acting severally under color and purported authority of the statutes of Massachusetts, subjected the plaintiff to the deprivation of rights, privileges, immunities and guaranties secured by the Constitution of the United States, all to the plaintiff's damage in the sum of $500,000.

Defendant Crafts moved for summary judgment upon the ground, among others, that as a Justice of the said court "this defendant is immune from any action against him on account of his official acts as such a justice and is not liable to answer to the plaintiff in this case as a matter of law."

Accompanying the motion was an affidavit by Judge Crafts reciting, in part, as follows: On March 19, 1940, a report was made to him in his official capacity by the superintendent of the Walter E. Fernald State School, "which was a school for the feeble minded within the jurisdiction of this defendant, to the effect that the plaintiff was an inmate of said school and was not a proper subject for retention therein because of his misbehavior as set forth in the said report," which report requested that plaintiff be transferred to the Department of Mental Delinquents at Bridgewater, pursuant to Chap. 123, Mass. Gen.Laws (Ter.Ed.) § 113 et seq., as amended. Notice was given to the Department of Mental Health, pursuant to § 116 of Chap. 123, and said department caused the plaintiff to be examined by two experts in insanity with a view to determining whether or not the plaintiff was an improper subject to be retained in the said school. The Department of Mental Health caused a written report to be made to the defendant by two physicians, both of whom were well known to the defendant and in whom he had confidence. The defendant made inquiry into the facts, and being satisfied from the foregoing that the plaintiff was not a fit subject for retention in the said school entered an order in his judicial capacity for the removal of the plaintiff as requested in the application by the superintendent of the school and in accordance with the provisions of Mass.Gen.Laws, Chap. 123, § 116. At the time of making inquiry into the facts, defendant was informed and believed that the plaintiff was an inmate of the Walter E. Fernald State School as the result of a voluntary admission pursuant to Mass.Gen.Laws, Chap. 123, § 47. Defendant was further informed and believed that the mother of the plaintiff, who was then still a minor, was present at the said school on March 19, 1940, "and was notified of the request being made for the removal of the plaintiff therefrom and that she assented to such removal". Further the affidavit recited that the said order for removal "entered by this defendant in his judicial capacity was merely an order for removal of the plaintiff from one institution to another in order that he might receive a more suitable type of care." Attached to the affidavit were certified copies of the aforesaid report and application for transfer filed by the superintendent of the school, of the report of the two physicians on behalf of the Department of Mental Health, and of the order of removal, above referred to, issued by the defendant on March 19, 1940.

In this state of the record the plaintiff also moved for summary judgment on the ground that there was no material issue of fact to be tried and that the plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.

After a hearing on the motions for summary judgment, the district court allowed the defendant's motion, and on December 15, 1952, entered judgment dismissing the complaint as to defendant Crafts. In a memorandum of decision filed December 8, 1952, Judge Ford argues persuasively that the Civil Rights Act should not be interpreted as overturning the time-honored immunity of judges from civil liability for their official acts. 108 F.Supp. 884.

Plaintiff duly filed a notice of appeal from the aforesaid "final judgment". Since in his memorandum the district judge expressly determined that there was no just reason for delay and expressly directed the entry of judgment as to the defendant Crafts, pursuant to Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S. C., the case is now properly before us on appeal. Boston Medical Supply Co. v. Lea & Febiger, 1 Cir., 1952, 195 F.2d 853, 855. Appellee has not questioned our appellate jurisdiction.

We are clearly of the opinion that the...

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59 cases
  • Morgan v. Sylvester
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • October 26, 1954
    ...the common law immunity of judges from civil suit was overridden by the Civil Rights Act, whereas the more recent case of Francis v. Crafts, 1 Cir., 203 F.2d 809, takes the contrary However unsettled the law on this subject may have been up to the present, I am persuaded that the Supreme Co......
  • Rieser v. Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • June 9, 1955
    ...Seminary in Virginia, 91 U.S.App.D.C. 69, 198 F.2d 595, certiorari denied 344 U.S. 864, 73 S.Ct. 105, 97 L.Ed. 670; Francis v. Crafts, 1 Cir., 203 F.2d 809, certiorari denied 346 U. S. 835, 74 S.Ct. 43, 98 L.Ed. 357; Francis v. Lyman, 1 Cir., 216 F.2d 583; American Machine & Metals, Inc., v......
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    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • March 5, 1970 federal civil rights actions other than those based upon Section 1986 of the 1871 Act (42 U.S.C. § 1986). See, e. g., Francis v. Crafts, 203 F.2d 809 (1st Cir. 1953), certiorari denied, 346 U.S. 835, 74 S.Ct. 43, 98 L.Ed. 357; Swan v. Board of Higher Education of City of New York, 319 F.......
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    • February 8, 1954
    ...71 S.Ct. 937, 95 L.Ed. 1253; Whittington v. Johnston, 5 Cir., 201 F.2d 810, certiorari denied, 346 U.S. 867, 74 S.Ct. 103; Francis v. Crafts, 1 Cir., 203 F.2d 809, certiorari denied, 346 U.S. 835, 74 S.Ct. 43. ...
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