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Doe v. McMillan

Absolute Immunity

Although McMillan did not hinge on it, issues involving absolute immunity often relate to the Civil Rights Act of 1871. The Civil Rights Act, adopted during the violent days of Reconstruction, stated in part that "Every person who, under color of any statute . . . of any State or Territory . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law . . . "

This language proved problematic for a number of reasons, including the issue that led to the placement of absolute immunity provisions not in the legislation itself, but within courtrooms that reviewed these claims. In any number of instances, an official acting in a legitimate capacity must deprive another citizen of rights: for instance, a judge who sentences a man to prison for a crime is certainly depriving that man--even if his guilt is proven beyond all reasonable doubt--of his right to freedom. Therefore in a series of decisions over the next century, the Supreme Court provided absolute immunity for legislators, judges, and various other types of officials, as long as they are acting in their prescribed official capacities.

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