A Guadalupe County attorney is not immune from a lawsuit accusing her of illegally entering a Texas woman's home and helping to remove 47 dogs and cats, the 5th Circuit ruled.See the full opinion (pdf). The court expressed no opinion on whether the county attorney might be entitled to "qualified immunity" for her role, declaring that the issue should be argued on remand.
Prosecutorial immunity shields a prosecutor's role of evaluating evidence and interviewing witnesses before trial, not the detective work that forms the basis of a complaint or prosecution, the New Orleans-based appeals court noted.
County attorney Elizabeth Murray-Kolb and three other county officials took the pets from Suzanne Hoog-Watson based suspicions of animal neglect. They had also heard that Hoog-Watson moved to a mental institution - a rumor that turned out to be false. ...
The district court dismissed the federal claims, and Hoog-Watson appealed.
She argued that the county attorney's involved role in the search and removal of her pets disqualified Murray-Kolb for prosecutorial immunity. The 5th Circuit agreed, reversing dismissal of the federal claims and reviving the claims against Murray-Kolb.
Though prosecutors are immune for their role in evaluating evidence, "this is not the case, because Murray-Kolb evaluated the conditions at Hoog-Watson's property as part of the effort to assemble evidence," Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod concluded (original emphasis).