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Harlow v. Fitzgerald

United States Supreme Court
457 U.S. 800 (1982)

Harlow v. Fitzgerald


A. Ernest Fitzgerald (plaintiff) was a management analyst in the Department of the Air Force. During the Johnson administration, Fitzgerald testified to a congressional committee regarding technical problems and cost overruns on the C-5A cargo plane. Fitzgerald’s testimony was embarrassing to the Defense Department, and a memo outlined a way to discharge Fitzgerald using a reduction in force despite Fitzgerald’s civil service protection. Approximately one year later, the Nixon administration carried out the reduction in force and eliminated Fitzgerald’s position. Fitzgerald sued Nixon, and two senior White House aides, Bryce Harlow and Alexander Butterfield (defendants). Discovery progressed for eight years. Nixon, Fitzgerald, and Harlow moved for summary judgment based on immunity. The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment, and Nixon, Fitzgerald, and Harlow appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Powell, J.)

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