Court holds Police Chief is not entitled to executive immunity when acting as "ordinary police officer."
Under Michigan law, most government actors are immune from liability when negligent in performing their official duties. In the 1960s, however, Michigan adopted a statute that makes exceptions for certain situations and one of the exceptions is for the situation where a governmental employee is guilty of "gross negligence." The Courts have interpreted this statute, however, as not applying to the "highest executive officer" within a level of government, believing that this exception to the exception is necessary to preserve the proper separation of powers.In 2008, the Police Chief of the Village of Port Sanilac became embroiled in a dispute over the "offensive" nature of music being performed by a band participating in a fundraiser for the local volunteer fire department. It is alleged that the Police Chief, Ronald Jaskowski, grabbed the band's drummer by the collar, violently shoved him off stage and then arrested him and another band member. Needless to say, the Police Chief denied this description of his behavior and argued that he was immune from a claim of false arrest and battery.
The two men sued each other and Jaskowski arged that he was completely immune from liability because of his position as the highest executive office of the Port Sanilac police force. The lower court and the Court of Appeals both rejected this claim. They noted that since Jaskowski's alleged wrong-doing did not involve executive function and instead related solely to his behavior as a responding police officer, he did not enjoy immunity for any grossly negligent behavior in which he engaged. Judge Christopher Murray, who virtually always sides with insurance interests, dissented and would have granted Jaskowski immunity for any action he took, regardless of fault.