February 23, 2013

Ky. Sheriff's Family Can Pursue Civil Suit Against His Murderer and Rival

An appellate panel has ruled that the family of a slain eastern Kentucky sheriff Paul L. Browning Jr. can pursue a civil suit against the former deputy who was convicted of killing him, as well as a political rival.

The appellate panel ruled that former Harlan County Sheriff Steve Duff and now-imprisoned deputy Roger Dean Hall were not immune from being sued by the family of 57-year-old Paul L. Browning Jr., who was killed as he sought re-election in 2002.

Judge Jeff S. Taylor, writing for a three-judge panel, concluded that Hall wasn't entitled to immunity from being sued and Duff wasn't immune from being sued for Hall's actions in arranging Browning's slaying. Taylor found that the concept of sovereign immunity — which generally prevents government officials from being sued for acts taken as part of their official duties — didn't apply to Duff because the sheriff is liable for the acts of his deputies.

Taylor also found that Hall couldn't be sued for any actions he took as a sheriff's deputy, but could be held liable for things he did that went beyond that role.

In what could be the foundation of a Hollywood film, Browning himself had been arrested while he served as sheriff in 1981 for the suspicion of plotting to kill a magistrate and the school board chairman of the county.

Browning actually ran for sheriff from his jail cell at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville.

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