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153893 - Julie A Pucci v 19th Judicial District Court

Julie A. Pucci,
Joel B. Sklar
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
(Wayne – Ziolkowski, R.[retired])
Nineteenth Judicial District Court,
David D. O’Brien
Garnishee Defendant-Appellee,
Chief Judge Mark W. Somers and Comerica Bank,


Plaintiff Julie Pucci filed a federal court action under 42 USC 1983 against 19th District Court Judge Mark W. Somers, alleging wrongful termination. A jury found in plaintiff’s favor, resulting in entry of a judgment exceeding $1.1 million. Days before the federal court trial began, Judge Somers, in his role as chief judge, adopted an indemnification policy providing that the 19th District Court would indemnify judges of the court against judgments for discretionary administrative decisions made within the scope of their authority. Plaintiff served a writ of garnishment on defendant court to enforce its obligation to indemnify Judge Somers. Both parties filed motions for summary disposition on the issue of liability. The circuit court held that defendant court was responsible for the unpaid judgment under the indemnification policy. The Court of Appeals reversed in an unpublished per curiam decision, holding that Judge Somers could adopt an indemnification policy that covered court employees and judges while acting in their official capacity, but he did not have the authority to adopt a policy that would indemnify judges for liability incurred in their personal capacity. The Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal to address: (1) whether the chief judge of a district court possesses the authority to adopt an employee indemnification policy on behalf of the district court, MCL 691.1408(1); MCR 8.110(C); (2) if a chief judge possesses such authority, whether the judge may adopt a policy that indemnifies employees for liability incurred in their individual capacities; and (3) whether the conduct of Judge Somers that gave rise to the judgment against him in the federal district court occurred "while in the course of employment and while acting within the scope of his . . . authority." MCL 691.1408(1).