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June 30, 1978 - Image 2

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1978-06-30

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Page 2-Friday, June 30, 1978-The Michigan Daily,
Court says govt. liable for rights
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme mune simply because of his greater question of whether a President is im-
Court, rejecting the ,Carter ad- authority." mune from civil suit.
ministration's "absolute immunity" Voting 5-4, the justices held that all The dissenters, borrowing the words
arguments, ruled yesterday that federal officials except those who fun- of a federal appeals judge in a 30-year-
federal officials may be sued if they ction essentially as judges rather than old case, said the decision could "dam-
deliberately violate a person's con- administrators can be held accountable pen the ardor of all but the most
stitutional rights. for unconstitutional actions. resolute or the most irresponsible in the
The decision could have an im- The four dissenters, in an opinion by unflinching discharge of their duties."
mediate effect on a series of pending Justice William Rehnquist, said the
lawsuits against top-ranking officials of decision virtually stripped those of- ATTORNEY GENERAL Griffin Bell
the FBI and CIA accused of violating ficials of any immunity in carrying out had forwarded the same argument. He
constitutional rights by approving their duties. said the threat of civil suits places an
illegal wiretaps and break-ins, unfair burden on federal officials with
A JUSTICE Department official said sensitive policy-making assignments.
"IT MAKES LITTLE sense," Justice there was nothing in the decision to Discounting those fears, White said,
Byron White wrote for the court, "to exempt a President from civil damage "Federal officials will not be liable for
hold that a government agent is liable suits although the court did not mere mistakes in judgment, whether
for warrantless and forcible entry into specifically address that question. the mistake is one of fact or one of law."
a citizen's house in pursuit of evidence, The official, who asked not to be But, he added, "We see no substantial
but that an official of higher rank who named, said given the narrow majority, basis for holding ... that, executive of-
actually orders such a burglary is im- the court could go the other way on the ficers generally may with impunity

discharge their duties in a way that is
known to them to violate the United
States Constitution."
White said that only a specific act of
Congress could free federal officials
from such liability, stating, "In the ab-
See COURT, Page 11
volume LXXXVIII, No.36-s
Friday.June 34,.1978
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