Harlow v. Fitzgerald

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Harlow v. Fitzgerald
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Date decided June 1982


Fitzgerald (plaintiff) is dismissed after giving a testimony to the U.S. Congress. At the testimony hearing, he complains about cost overruns.

Fitzgerald files a complaint with the United States Civil Service Commission. The examiner at the Civil Service Commission found that the re-organization at the Air Force was impermissible. The dismissal of Fitzgerald occurred improperly. However, the examiner didn't regard Fitzgerald's termination as retaliatory.

Procedural History

Fitzgerald filed a federal lawsuit for damages (monetary award for the harm he suffered). He alleged that the Nixon administration officials including Bryce Harlow (defendant) had deprived him of his career and ruined his reputation.


To what extent are federal officials protected by absolute immunity?


Federal officials performing discretionary duties aren't protected by absolute immunity like POTUS; they are protected by qualified immunity.


POTUS, members of Congress, and federal judges are protected by absolute immunity.

Almost all other federal officials including the members of the President's cabinet are protected by qualified immunity.


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