Anderson v. Creighton
In Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987), the U.S. Supreme Court held that public officials are protected by qualified immunity from liability for actions pursuant to a statute that they reasonably believed to be valid notwithstanding whether the statute is ultimately struck down as unconstitutional.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion for the 6-3 Court. He addressed the whether a federal law enforcement officer who participates in a search that violates the Fourth Amendment may be held personally liable for money damages if a reasonable officer could have believed that the search comported with the Fourth Amendment. He held in favor of the officer and reversed a lower court ruling exposing him to damages:
- The general rule of qualified immunity is intended to provide government officials with the ability "reasonably [to] anticipate when their conduct may give rise to liability for damages." Davis, 468 U.S., at 195. Where that rule is applicable, officials can know that they will not be held personally liable as long as their actions are reasonable in light of current American law. That security would be utterly defeated if officials were unable to determine whether they were protected by the rule without entangling themselves in the vagaries of the English and American common law. We are unwilling to Balkanize the rule of qualified immunity by carving exceptions at the level of detail the Creightons propose. We therefore decline to make an exception to the general rule of qualified immunity for cases involving allegedly unlawful warrantless searches of innocent third parties' homes in search of fugitives.