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Doe v. McMillan

Dissemination Of Report Not Immune

Next, the Court addressed the other defendants named in the suit: the Superintendent of Documents and the Public Printer. It held that these officials were not immune from suit, because their actions in disseminating the report were not protected under the Speech or Debate Clause:

[W]e cannot accept the proposition that in order to perform its legislative function Congress not only must at times consider and use actionable material but also must be free to disseminate it to the public at large, no matter how injurious to private reputation that material might be.

Finally, the Court considered the Court of Appeals ruling that the persons who disseminated the report were immune from suit under the "official immunity doctrine," which protects public officials from bothersome lawsuits. This claim was dismissed as well:

Congress has conferred no express statutory immunity on the Public Printer or the Superintendent of Documents. Congress has not provided that these officials should be immune for printing and distributing materials where those who author the materials would not be . . . We conclude that, for the purposes of the judicially fashioned doctrine of immunity, the Public Printer and the Superintendent of Documents are no more free from suit in the case before us than would be a legislative aide who made copies of the materials at issue and distributed them to the public at the direction of his superiors.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court ruled:

Because we think the Court of Appeals applied the immunities of the Speech or Debate Clause and of the doctrine of official immunity too broadly, we must reverse its judgment and remand the case for appropriate further proceedings.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Doe v. McMillan - Significance, The Lower Court Rulings, The Supreme Court Ruling, Legislative Acts Immune From Suit