- 502 U.S. 9 (1991)
OCTOBER TERM, 1991
MIRELES v. WACO
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
No. 91-311. Decided October 21, 1991
Respondent Waco, a public defender, filed this action under 42 U. S. C. § 1983, seeking damages from, inter alios, petitioner Mireles, a California Superior Court judge, for ordering the police, forcibly and with excessive force, to seize and bring him into the courtroom when he failed to appear for the calling of the calendar. The Federal District Court dismissed the complaint against the judge, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), on the grounds of complete judicial immunity. However, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the judge was not acting in his judicial capacity when he requested and authorized the use of excessive force.
Held: The Court of Appeals erred in ruling that Judge Mireles' alleged actions were not taken in his judicial capacity. Judicial immunity is an immunity from suit, not just from ultimate assessment of damages, and it can be overcome only if a judge's actions are nonjudicial or were taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction. Here, the judge's function of directing police officers to bring counsel in a pending case before the court is a general function normally performed by a judge. That he may have made a mistake or acted in excess of his authority does not make the act nonjudicial. See, e. g., Forrester v. White, 484 U. S. 219, 227. His action was also taken in the very aid of his jurisdiction over the matter before him, and thus it cannot be said that the action was taken in the absence of jurisdiction.
Certiorari granted; reversed.
A long line of this Court's precedents acknowledges that, generally, a judge is immune from a suit for money damages. See, e. g., Forrester v. White, 484 U. S. 219 (1988); Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U. S. 193 (1985); Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U. S. 24 (1980); Supreme Court of Va. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc., 446 U. S. 719 (1980); Butz v. Economou, 438 U. S. 478 (1978); Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U. S. 349 (1978); Pierson
v. Ray, 386 U. S. 547 (1967).1 Although unfairness and injustice to a litigant may result on occasion, "it is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself." Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335, 347 (1872).
In this case, respondent Howard Waco, a Los Angeles County public defender, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California under Rev. Stat. § 1979, 42 U. S. C. § 1983, against petitioner, Raymond Mireles, a judge of the California Superior Court, and two police officers, for damages arising from an incident in November 1989 at the Superior Court building in Van Nuys, Cal. Waco alleged that after he failed to appear for the initial call of Judge Mireles' morning calendar, the judge, "angered by the absence of attorneys from his courtroom," ordered the police officer defendants "to forcibly and with excessive force seize and bring plaintiff into his courtroom." App. to Pet. for Cert. B-3, , 7(a). The officers allegedly "by means of unreasonable force and violence seize[d] plaintiff and remove[d] him backwards" from another courtroom where he was waiting to appear, cursed him, and called him "vulgar and offensive names," then "without necessity slammed" him through the doors and swinging gates into Judge Mireles' courtroom. Id., at B-4, , 7(c). Judge Mireles, it was alleged, "knowingly and deliberately approved and ratified each of the aforedescribed acts" of the police officers. Ibid. Waco demanded general and punitive damages. Id., at B-5 and B-6.
1 The Court, however, has recognized that a judge is not absolutely immune from criminal liability, Ex parte Virginia, 100 U. S. 339, 348-349 (1880), or from a suit for prospective injunctive relief, Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U. S. 522, 536-543 (1984), or from a suit for attorney's fees authorized by statute, id., at 543-544.