Harlow v. Fitzgerald

PETITIONER: Bryce Harlow and Alexander Butterfield
RESPONDENT: A. Ernest Fitzgerald
LOCATION: White House

DOCKET NO.: 80-945
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 457 US 800 (1982)
ARGUED: Nov 30, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 24, 1982
GRANTED: Jun 22, 1981

ADVOCATES:
Elliot L. Richardson - for petitioners Harlow and Butterfield
Herbert J. Miller, Jr. - for petitioner Nixon
John E. Nolan, Jr. - for respondent

Facts of the case

On November 13, 1968, A. Ernest Fitzgerald, a management analyst in the Department of the Air Force, testified before the Subcommittee on Economy in Government of the Joint Economic Committee of the U. S. Congress regarding $2 billion in unexpected costs associated with the C5-A transport plane along with its technical difficulties. In January 1970, he was fired, and he believed his dismissal was in retaliation for his testimony. Fitzgerald sued presidential aides Bryce Harlow and Alexander Butterfield for civil damages and claimed they were involved in a conspiracy that resulted in his wrongful dismissal. Both Harlow and Butterfield claimed to have no knowledge of any conspiracy and asserted that their actions surrounding this issue were undertaken in good faith. Harlow and Butterfield moved for summary judgment, which the court denied. The district court also found them ineligible for immunity. They appealed the denial of immunity to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal without issuing an opinion.

Question

Are presidential aides entitled to immunity from civil suits?

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