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Butz v. Economou - Significance, The Lower Court Rulings, Officials Entitled To Qualified Immunity, Officials Not Liable For Mistakes In Judgment

supreme petitioner justices decision


Earl L. Butz


Arthur N. Economou

Petitioner's Claim

That federal officials acting within the scope of their authority have absolute immunity for allegedly unconstitutional acts.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Daniel M. Friedman

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

David C. Buxbaum

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Byron R. White (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting

Warren E. Burger, William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Potter Stewart


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

29 June 1978


Federal executive officials are entitled only to qualified immunity in suits brought against them for unconstitutional acts.

The Supreme Court Ruling

On 29 June 1978 the Supreme Court issued its decision. By a narrow vote of 5-4, it ruled in favor of Economou and against Earl Butz. Justice White wrote the majority opinion, in which he was joined by Justices Marshall, Powell, Brennan, and Blackmun. The majority opinion ruled on three points of contention in the case.

Related Cases

  • Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167 (1960).
  • Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982).

Further Readings

  • Biskupic, Joan, and Elder Witt, eds. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1996.
  • Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1986.
  • Hall, Kermit L., ed. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court . New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Califano v. Goldfarb - Significance [next] [back] Buckley v. Valeo - Decision, Significance, Court Distinguished Campaign Contributions From Expenditures

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