Court: Zachares, Goldberg not immune from lawsuit

Posted on Jul 09 1999

Government officials who perform administrative duties and conduct investigations that have nothing to do with preparations for judicial proceedings are not absolutely immune from lawsuits.

US District Court Judge Alex Munson invoked this jurisprudence in denying labor officials’ motion for dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a nonresident worker.

The case was filed by Ariel Gorromeo against Labor Secretary Mark Zachares and the immigration division’s legal counsel Asst. Atty. Gen. Robert Goldberg.

Gorromeo, represented by lawyer Anthony Long, alleged that he was arrested and detained twice by labor and immigration agents without any warrant nor proper procedure.

He was first arrested on June 4, 1998 at a construction site where he worked. He said he was not taken before a judge within 48 hours after his arrest.

The arresting agents claimed he was working illegally as he did not have a work permit.

The department later filed a deportation case against him, which the Superior Court dismissed on July 22.

He was released from detention following the court’s order, only to be arrested again at his house the following day, and again without a warrant.

Zachares and Goldberg, who were sued in their personal capacities, sought the dismissal of the case claiming they enjoyed absolute immunity from suit, and describing Gorromeo’s allegations as “vague and ambiguous.”

In denying the labor officials’ motion, Munson ruled that the Gorromeo’s “factual allegations must be treated as true.”

“Plaintiff’s complaint advanced eight claims for relief alleging violations of [his] 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and an illegal warrantless arrest,” Munson stated in a written order issued June 29.

Munson also noted that Zachares and Goldberg failed to address the constitutional issues raised by Gorromeo.

“Absolute immunity protects prosecutors from frivolous lawsuits that could ’cause a deflection of the prosecutor’s energies from his public duties, and shade his decisions instead of [allowing him to exercise] the independence of judgment required by his public trust,” Munson wrote.

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