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What is Malfeasance?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 16, 2024
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Malfeasance is a legal term that refers to an individual intentionally performing an act that is illegal. Malfeasance is related to two other legal concepts: misfeasance and nonfeasance. Misfeasance is a legal act performed wrongfully, for instance, if a public official or a lawyer did something that was not illegal but is mistaken or erroneous. Nonfeasance, which is closely related to misfeasance, is the failure to act even though a duty to act existed.

Malfeasance is often used in reference to people in public office. In many cases, proving malfeasance on the part of an official is grounds to remove that person from his or her post. Proving malfeasance can, however, be a difficult chore, as most experts do not completely agree on its definition. Even the court systems are not entirely in agreement.

All courts agree that malfeasance has to do with wrongful doing, but defining wrongful doing and proving malicious intent are difficult tasks. In addition, the act must be proven to have interfered with the perpetrators’ official duties. Determining whether or not the act interfered with the duties is also difficult. In addition, some courts believe malfeasance also applies to an act that interferes with the official duties of other public officials.

Due to disagreement over the exact meaning of malfeasance, the definitions of malfeasance and misfeasance sometimes overlap. As a result, malfeasance can also sometimes refer to negligent acts that were committed out of ignorance and not just to those that were committed intentionally. A true example of malfeasance by its original definition would be when a public official hires her niece to a particular position and pays her more than the position warrants or allows her to falsify her time cards. Misfeasance, on the other hand, would apply to the public official who hires her niece without realizing that it is against the law to hire a relative for the position.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon980316 — On Dec 04, 2014

The president of a labor union attended a meeting at the City Hall with City Manager to discuss negotiation of wages on and did not inform the Vice President and the Chief Negotiator of such meetings. Is this a form of malfeasance and grounds for recall of the president?

By anon297641 — On Oct 16, 2012

If a county attorney knowingly files charges, he knows are false, can he be charged with a crime or removed from office?

By anon145461 — On Jan 23, 2011

Hahaha. Any way, any place, drag in some attack on President Obama. Let's see, is there another dead horse we could flog (for want of anything constructive to do)? Some secretary of state who mucked about in a presidential election vote count or recount? Or was it a pageant and she was up for Ms. Feasance 2000?

By anon79306 — On Apr 22, 2010

When a secretary of state willfully avoids his responsibility to verify that a person is qualified to run for office, as in the case of barack obama, is that secretary of state guilty of malfeasance?

By anon7720 — On Feb 01, 2008

are there grounds for malfeasance if a public school board member meets without the building principal secretly with teachers to discuss school concerns????

By anon1236 — On May 21, 2007

Is there a ststue of limitations on malfeasance?, and could I bring a class action Lawsuit based on this?

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