Jarvis v. Drake, No. 66434

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Kansas
Writing for the CourtALLEGRUCCI
Citation830 P.2d 23,250 Kan. 645
PartiesLaurence M. JARVIS, Appellant/Cross-appellee, v. Terry W. DRAKE, Appellee/Cross-appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 66434
Decision Date10 April 1992

Page 23

830 P.2d 23
250 Kan. 645
Laurence M. JARVIS, Appellant/Cross-appellee,
v.
Terry W. DRAKE, Appellee/Cross-appellant.
No. 66434.
Supreme Court of Kansas.
April 10, 1992.
Syllabus by the Court

1. The immunity granted in Supreme Court Rule 223 (1991 Kan.Ct.R.Annot. 172) in an attorney disciplinary proceeding is

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absolute and precludes a civil action by an attorney against a complainant.

2. Supreme Court Rule 223 (1991 Kan.Ct.R.Annot. 172) is rationally related to a legitimate governmental objective of effectively regulating the conduct of the bar and protecting the public interest and, thus, is not a violation of the equal protection guarantee of the United States Constitution.

3. The record is examined in an action for malicious prosecution, libel, and tortious interference with contract brought by an attorney against the complainant in an attorney disciplinary proceeding, and it is held that the district court did not err in (1) granting summary judgment to the complainant, and (2) denying the complainant's request for attorney fees.

Laurence M. Jarvis, of Laurence M. Jarvis, Chartered, of Kansas City, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant/cross-appellee pro se.

Bill L. Klapper, of Turner, Vader & Koch, Chtd., of Kansas City, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellee/cross-appellant.

ALLEGRUCCI, Justice:

Laurence M. Jarvis, an attorney, filed this action against the defendant, Terry W. Drake, to recover for malicious prosecution, libel, and tortious interference with contract. The district court concluded that Drake was immune from suit and entered summary judgment in his favor. Jarvis appeals from the district court's entry of summary judgment. Drake cross-appeals from the district court's denial of his request for attorney fees. The appeal was transferred from the Court of Appeals to this court by order of the court on January 7, 1992.

[250 Kan. 646] Because it is the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Drake which is challenged on appeal, this court must read the record in the light most favorable to Jarvis. McAlister v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 233 Kan. 252, Syl. p 4, 662 P.2d 1203 (1983). The facts, therefore, are related in that light.

Jarvis is an attorney who practices in Wyandotte County, Kansas. Among his clients is Judith Drake, the former wife of defendant Terry Drake. On behalf of Judith Drake, Jarvis sought to recover from Terry Drake unpaid child support and insurance reimbursement payments and to obtain an increase in child support payments.

In May 1989 Terry Drake wrote a letter to the office of the disciplinary administrator, alleging the following against Jarvis: (1) twice meeting in secret with the administrative hearing officer who handled the Drake divorce; (2) requesting the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Terry Drake; and (3) wrongfully filing a garnishment on Terry Drake's wages and doing so without authority from Judith Drake. Jarvis alleges that Drake knew these allegations were false when he made them.

After an investigation of Drake's allegations, his complaint was dismissed by the disciplinary administrator for lack of probable cause.

Jarvis filed a petition against Drake in the District Court of Wyandotte County, seeking to recover for malicious prosecution and libel. He later was allowed to amend his petition to add a charge of tortious interference with contract. Jarvis alleged that Drake "maliciously, wrongfully, intentionally, and without probable cause file[d] false, serious, and groundless charges against [him]."

Drake filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that at all times pertinent to the allegations he was cloaked with immunity. The district court granted Drake's motion for summary judgment and affirmed its own ruling upon consideration of Jarvis' motion for rehearing.

Drake requested that the district court award to him the amount of the attorney fees expended in defense of Jarvis' allegations. The district court declined to award attorney fees.

We first consider if the district court erred in granting summary judgment

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in favor of defendant on the ground that he is immune [250 Kan. 647] from suit under Supreme Court Rule 223 (1991 Kan.Ct.R.Annot. 172). Supreme Court Rule 223, entitled "Immunity," states as follows:

"Complaints, reports, or testimony in the course of disciplinary proceedings under these Rules shall be deemed to be made in the course of judicial proceedings. All participants shall be entitled to judicial immunity and all rights, privileges and immunities afforded public officials and other participants in actions filed in the courts of this state."

The only case which interprets this rule involves a different issue--self-incrimination. State v. Savaiano, 234 Kan. 268, 271-74, 670 P.2d 1359 (1983).

In 1988, Rule 223 was amended to add the words, "judicial immunity and," in the second sentence. Thus, before the amendment, all participants in disciplinary proceedings were entitled to "immunities afforded public officials and other participants in actions filed in the courts of this state." 1987 Kan.Ct.R.Annot. 121. After the amendment, all participants in disciplinary proceedings are entitled to "judicial immunity" as well as "immunities afforded public officials and other participants in actions filed in the courts of this state." 1991 Kan.Ct.R.Annot. 172.

When called as a witness at the hearing on Drake's motion for summary judgment, Bruce Miller, Disciplinary Administrator for the State of Kansas, testified that the addition of "judicial immunity" to Rule 223 was intended to increase or strengthen the protection afforded participants in disciplinary proceedings. He testified that:

"The closest thing to absolute immunity to exist is judicial immunity.

"In discussing this rule with the Court, one of the things that we wanted to do was to re-enforce the rights of a person, of a citizen, of the state, to make complaints against attorneys to be handled by an agency of the supreme court.

"And the court agreed--this was, in fact, my suggestion to the court, and the court did agree with that suggestion and did adopt it and put it into the rule.

....

"And this is the kind of immunity that I believe the court was attempting to bestow upon all personnel connected with the disciplinary--all people connected with the disciplinary process, be the[y] complainants, be the[y] respondent, attorneys, be they--any of the investigators, of the--or the Kansas Board [for] Discipline that [make] the decision in regards to these complaints as they go through the system."

[250 Kan. 648] According to Miller, the reason he suggested strengthening the grant of immunity was that he and his staff

"just find it to be of extreme importance [to] the entire ethics system of this state that any person that has a complaint against an attorney be allowed to express that complaint. It's the purpose of this system to find out whether it has merit or [does] not [have] merit."

Judicial immunity is a long- and firmly established common-law rule. It was described by the United States Supreme Court in the following words:

"Few doctrines were more solidly established at common law than the immunity of judges from liability for damages for acts committed within their judicial jurisdiction, as this Court recognized when it adopted the doctrine, in Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335 [, 20 L.Ed. 646] (1872). This immunity applies even when the judge is accused of acting maliciously and corruptly, and it 'is not for the protection or benefit of a malicious or corrupt judge, but for the benefit of the public, whose interest it is that the judges should be at liberty to exercise their functions with independence and without fear of consequences.' (Scott v. Stansfield, L.R. 3 Ex. 220, 223 [1868], quoted in Bradley v. Fisher, supra, [13 Wall.] 349; note, at 350.) It is a judge's duty to decide all cases within his jurisdiction that are brought before him, including controversial cases that arouse the most intense feelings in the litigants. His errors may be corrected on appeal, but he should not have to fear that unsatisfied litigants may hound him with

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litigation charging malice or corruption. Imposing such a...

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17 practice notes
  • Practice and procedure: Patent and trademark cases rules of practice; representation of others before Patent and Trademark Office,
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
    • December 12, 2003
    ...Dist. 1975); Field v. Kearns, 43 Conn. App. 265, 682 A.2d 148 (1996), cert. denied, 239 Conn. 942, 684 A.2d 711 (1996); Jarvis v. Drake, 250 Kan. 645,830 P.2d 23 (1992); Kerpelman v. Bricker, 23 Md. App. 628, 329 A.2d 423 (1974); Netterville v. Lear Siegler, Inc., 397 So.2d 1109 (Miss. 1981......
  • Part II
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
    • December 12, 2003
    ...Dist. 1975); Field v. Kearns, 43 Conn. App. 265, 682 A.2d 148 (1996), cert. denied, 239 Conn. 942, 684 A.2d 711 (1996); Jarvis v. Drake, 250 Kan. 645,830 P.2d 23 (1992); Kerpelman v. Bricker, 23 Md. App. 628, 329 A.2d 423 (1974); Netterville v. Lear Siegler, Inc., 397 So.2d 1109 (Miss. 1981......
  • Hawkins v. Harris
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • July 27, 1995
    ...judicial immunity has remained viable in the face of challenges in some very emotionally and politically charged cases." Jarvis v. Drake, 250 Kan. 645, 830 P.2d 23, 26 The extension of an absolute privilege to jurors, witnesses, and parties and their representatives is grounded in similar p......
  • D.A.R. v. R.E.L., 1151080
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 7, 2018
    ...such as malicious prosecution or abuse of process. See Wallace v. Jarvis, 119 N.C. App. 582, 459 S.E.2d 44 (1995) ; Jarvis v. Drake, 250 Kan. 645, 830 P.2d 23 (1992) (interpreting rule which affords judicial immunity to participants in the attorney discipline process); In re Smith, 989 P.2d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Hawkins v. Harris
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • July 27, 1995
    ...judicial immunity has remained viable in the face of challenges in some very emotionally and politically charged cases." Jarvis v. Drake, 250 Kan. 645, 830 P.2d 23, 26 The extension of an absolute privilege to jurors, witnesses, and parties and their representatives is grounded in similar p......
  • D.A.R. v. R.E.L., 1151080
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 7, 2018
    ...such as malicious prosecution or abuse of process. See Wallace v. Jarvis, 119 N.C. App. 582, 459 S.E.2d 44 (1995) ; Jarvis v. Drake, 250 Kan. 645, 830 P.2d 23 (1992) (interpreting rule which affords judicial immunity to participants in the attorney discipline process); In re Smith, 989 P.2d......
  • Kocontes v. McQuaid, No. S-09-235.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • January 29, 2010
    ...U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 639 So.2d 606 (Fla.1994); Geick v. Kay, 236 Ill. App.3d 868, 603 N.E.2d 121, 177 Ill.Dec. 340 (1992); Jarvis v. Drake, 250 Kan. 645, 830 P.2d 23 (1992); Gray v. Central Bank & Trust Co., 562 S.W.2d 656 (Ky.App.1978); Visnick v. Caulfield, 73 Mass.App. 809, 901 N.E.2d 126......
  • MORELAND v. PERKINS, No. 102
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • October 1, 2010
    ...the filing of the Form U-5 is absolutely privileged. PSB cites other instances240 P.3d 608of absolute privilege. See Jarvis v. Drake, 250 Kan. 645, 830 P.2d 23 (1992) (attorney discipline proceedings); Schulze v. Board of Education, 221 Kan. 351, 559 P.2d 367 (1977) (school board); Clear Wa......
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