The recent opinion from the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit underscores an alarming view that judges are above the law. The court shielded Judge Mark Repp from any liability for his egregious misconduct against Alexzandria Orta. Despite acknowledging Repp’s “inexcusable” actions, the Sixth Circuit still granted him judicial immunity. This misguided decision shows an extreme tolerance for civil rights violations from the bench.

In 2020, Orta was a spectator sitting in the back row of a Tiffin, Ohio courtroom to watch a proceeding involving her boyfriend. Judge Repp then detained Orta and ordered her to submit to forced drug testing without cause. When she refused, Repp held her in contempt without due process and jailed her overnight. The Sixth Circuit agreed Repp clearly violated Orta’s rights and committed “judicial misconduct.”

Yet the court still chose to protect Repp from consequences, rationalizing he acted within his jurisdiction. This flawed reasoning gives judges unchecked authority to strip citizens of liberty without accountability. As Orta’s lawyer argued, “Judicial immunity should not protect a judge performing prosecutorial functions like initiating criminal prosecutions.”

Here, Repp created a crime out of thin air to persecute an innocent citizen. As Orta stated, “What is to stop Repp from convicting spectators of crimes they did not commit?”

The Sixth Circuit made a callous assertion, contending that Judge Repp had already faced sufficient professional consequences.

“In conclusion, we agree with the district court that Judge Repp’s “actions are inexcusable” and emphasize that we “in no way condone the actions that led [Orta] to file this lawsuit,” the Sixth Circuit stated. “But we nevertheless agree that he receives absolute judicial immunity for this misconduct.”

This decision, however, denied justice to Orta, who was the victim in this case. The underlying message is unmistakable – the Sixth Circuit appears to endorse the idea that judges enjoy a level of immunity that places them above the law.

This case reveals an urgent need to revisit judicial immunity. When judges violate rights from the bench, their robes should not shield them. As Orta’s lawyer concluded, “Even with immunity, Repp cannot escape the consequences of his actions.” Tragically, the Sixth Circuit allowed him to do precisely that.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.