Can a governor be held personally liable in civil court for his actions in office?

What would most likely happen if a private citizen felt the governor of a state did something he should be held accountable for in a civil suit? Would that be construed as suing the state itself or would it simply be John Doe v Gov. Rich Roe?

What if the private citizen waited a few years for the current governor to leave office?

Are you talking about like if a governor runs over a kid while driving drunk? Or like the gov. decides he won’t provide funding for your pet project?

Also waiting can be a bad idea considering the statute of limitations.

I knew I’d get into this the moment after I posted the OP. I’m talking about actions he undertook in his capacity as governor, not personal misdeeds.

I think public officials are generallyimmune for official actions taken as part of their legal duties. There might be some limitations, like for false arrest or harassment.

I’m betting this has to do with the plausibility of Michael Schiavo suing Jeb Bush for harassment because of the recent directive to the state attorney-general to look into the circumstances behind the 911 call that was made after Terri collapsed…

Three part answer: Yes, No, and Yes.

  1. In general, anyone can be sued for whatever someone else can make a case for filing a suit. If I feel, and can adduce some evidence, that the Governor’s official actions “caused me injury,” (i.e., I lost something of value as a result), then I can sue him.

  2. A large proportion of jurisdictions (states, counties, cities, towns) have adopted “hold harmless” laws which provide that an official acting legally in his official capacity is defended by the state/municipality from any such suits. Before such laws, a minority of court cases held that suits against officials acting in their official capacity were barred under the old ‘the king can do no wrong’ doctrine. Most cases, however, held that this was inequitable. However, hold harmless laws are definitely justifiable under that doctrine.

  3. Quite a few cases, however, have been decided on the basis that the official, claiming to be acting in his official capacity, was actually acting ultra vires and therefore not entitled to hold harmless protection. Rather, he was culpable in his own person for acts beyond his legal powers.

jayjay: Enough. I was trying very hard to keep politics out of this. If that becomes a theme in the thread, I will work hard to get it closed.

Polycarp, David Simmons: Thank you for your answers. Law is always such an interesting topic to me.

Mea culpa. I wasn’t trying to start anything with that, but I should have thought twice about dragging it in. I’m sorry.

That’s okay. I’ve notified the mods so hopefully we’ll be able to keep a handle on this thing. I want information, not infighting.

My, what civilized, reasonable behaviour. Are you sure we’re still in GQ? :slight_smile:

Attention future posters: Don’t screw up the OP.