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Van de Kamp v. Goldstein

Court Type: U.S. Supreme Court
Status: Closed (Judgment)
Last Update: September 5, 2008

What's at Stake

Whether someone who was falsely imprisoned for 24 years based on the untrue testimony of a criminal informant can sue senior administrators in the prosecutor’s office for their failure to maintain an even rudimentary record system that would have disclosed impeachment information about the informant prior to trial. DECIDED

The Supreme Court has held that prosecutors are absolutely immune from damages for their actions as prosecutors but not when they act in other capacities — for example, as administrators or law enforcement officials. The Supreme Court has also held that prosecutors must turn over any impeachment information about informants to the defense. The question in this case is whether the failure of senior officials in the prosecutor’s office to develop a system for readily retrieving that information is a prosecutorial decision entitled to absolute immunity or a administrative decision entitled to qualified immunity. The lower court held that only qualified immunity applies, and the ACLU brief documents the damage done to the criminal justice system through the use of untrained, unsupervised, and often unscrutinized criminal informants.

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