The U.S. Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in a case
that could help clarify the often murky area of personal
liability for actions taken in the line of duty, an issue of
keen interest to managers who may find themselves the subject
of suits after taking disciplinary action against employees
or suits alleging wrongdoing in their conduct on the job.
The case, Groh v. Ramirez (02-811), involves a federal law
enforcement officer and a dispute over the serving of a
warrant. But the circumstances could lead the court to
develop a broader policy that goes beyond the law
The lower court found the officer personally liable for
proceeding to act without reading the warrant and dismissed
all other defendants except him, saying he bore the most
responsibility because he led the search-principles that
could be applied as well to management decisions in general.
Legal experts say the case-which may not be decided for
many months-could redefine the standards for enjoying
“qualified immunity” from personal liability for official
actions so long as the actions are taken in good faith.