The ruling was handed down by U.S. District Judge David M. Lawson on Friday.
In June 2011, a federal jury awarded $734,361 in compensatory and punitive damages to Julie (Pucci) Hultgren following her suit against Somers for violation of her rights under the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause. With attorney’s fees and interest, the judgment entered against Judge Somers totaled $1.17 million.
Mayor John B. O'Reilly, Jr. said the city has always contended that it is not responsible for paying the judgment. The decision on Friday validates the city’s position.
O’Reilly said the legal department worked diligently to protect taxpayers’ dollars in this case.
In his ruling, Lawson said that the federal court had no jurisdiction to enforce a writ of garnishment served on the city. His decision grants the city’s motion to quash the garnishment.
The city of Dearborn is the funding agent for the 19th District Court, however Somers is a judicial officer of and an employee of the state of Michigan. For this reason, the Michigan Attorney General’s office defended Somers at trial.
In addition, the jury verdict was against Somers in his personal capacity, not in his official capacity as the former chief judge of the district court.
Lawson’s opinion notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that an award of damages against an individual in his personal capacity can only be executed against the individual’s personal assets.