Buckley v. Fitzsimmons

PETITIONER: Buckley
RESPONDENT: Fitzsimmons et al.
LOCATION: Center Moriches School District

DOCKET NO.: 91-7849
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 509 US 259 (1993)
ARGUED: Feb 22, 1993
DECIDED: Jun 24, 1993

ADVOCATES:
George F. Taylor, Jr. - on behalf of the Petitioner
Jeffrey P. Minear - on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the Respondents
James G. Sotos - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Buckley v. Fitzsimmons

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 22, 1993 in Buckley v. Fitzsimmons

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 91-7849, Stephen Buckley v. Michael Fitzsimmons.

Mr. Taylor, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

George F. Taylor, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This Court has repeatedly held in conformance with common law that absolute immunity to public officials is exceedingly rare under section 1983.

This case presents the question of whether prosecutors who direct and participate in a yearlong prearrest and preindictment investigation, who participate in manufacturing bootprint evidence, in interrogating witnesses, and in conducting a prejudicial publicity campaign, which includes a postindictment press conference which strayed far beyond the announcement of that particular indictment, whether those particular functions and acts by a prosecutor should be afforded such immunity.

Common law, public policy, and this Court's prior decisions in Imbler, in Burns, and also in Harlow particularly dictate that such absolute prosecutorial immunity should not be afforded for these particular acts of these respondents.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Taylor, does acceptance... would acceptance of your position require that we cut back at all on the opinion... on our decision in the Imbler case?

George F. Taylor, Jr.:

No.

We have raised the question in a final point in our briefs in terms of limiting Imbler, but that only goes to the malicious prosecution aspect of our case.

In terms of the acts that I just outlined, it would not in any way cause a limitation on the holding in Imbler.

Common law, with regard to this particular set of acts and prosecutors and quasi-judicial immunity does not support the grant of absolute immunity here.

You can take it as narrowly or as broadly as one might want to.

Narrowly, you look at these acts and you see whether common law prior to and at 1871, which is, of course, when the statute was passed, when we have to look at it, that there was no exception for prosecutors or anyone else for these kinds of acts.

Antonin Scalia:

There was also no cause of action.

Was there a cause of action at common law for fabricating evidence that is never used?

George F. Taylor, Jr.:

Not a cause of action, but in terms of the allegations here, in terms of false arrest, malicious prosecution, yes, there definitely were.

And that's what I mean in terms of as broadly or as narrowly.

Antonin Scalia:

Now, wait.

The malicious prosecution certainly is... you're not saying that the act of prosecuting is not covered by the immunity, are you?

George F. Taylor, Jr.:

No.

We're not saying that the act of prosecuting.

We're saying if you look at this as disparate... if you look at the function of the acts that are in question here--

Antonin Scalia:

I'm saying that if you take them apart, there isn't any liability if... unless it leads up to the prosecution.

The mere fact that you fabricate a piece of evidence which is never used in a prosecution... there's no harm done, is there?

I can fabricate as much evidence as I want if it's never used in a prosecution.

George F. Taylor, Jr.:

--That's true in some ways, but on the other sense of it, the fact that the evidence was fabricated and then is introduced later time into this judicial process and causes injury should not be determinative of whether there's immunity because--

Antonin Scalia:

Isn't it the introduction that causes the harm.

The point at which your client is harmed is when fabricated evidence is introduced against him at trial.

George F. Taylor, Jr.:

--That's where the harm... that's where the injury takes place, but that isn't the analysis that necessarily follows in terms of determining whether the function that the particular police officer or the function that the particular prosecutor did in order to lead you to that introduction.

There is a distinction that can be made and should be made between the act and has been made both in Imbler and subsequently in Burns between certain acts that a prosecutor commits which are outside that penumbra of acts which are covered by prosecutorial immunity because they are not integrally associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process.