Absolute immunity is a form of legal immunity for government officials that confers total immunity from criminal prosecution and lawsuits so long as they are acting within the scope of their duties. Absolute immunity contrasts with qualified immunity, which only applies if specified conditions are met.
In common law jurisdictions, absolute civil immunity applies in the following circumstances:
- lawmakers engaged in the legislative process;
- judges acting in their judicial capacity;
- government prosecutors while making charging decisions (although prosecutors are only entitled to qualified immunity if they are acting outside of their function as a prosecutor);
- witnesses while testifying in court (although the witness may be prosecuted for perjury if the testimony is deliberately false);
- lawyers in certain circumstances related to fraud
In 2019, the Trump administration resisted efforts by House Democrats to compel Trump aides to testify, asserting that close aides to the president enjoy absolute immunity from providing testimony to Congress, with the Justice Department stating in a May 2019 opinion, "The immunity of the President’s immediate advisers from compelled congressional testimony on matters related to their official responsibilities has long been recognized and arises from the fundamental workings of the separation of powers." However, the only time this concept had been tested in court was in 2008, when US District Court judge John Bates ruled "there is no judicial support whatsoever" for it and that it "would eviscerate Congress’ historical oversight function."
- Absolute Immunity. Louisiana State University Medical and Public Health Law Site.
- Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 US 409, 418 1976
- Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 US 259 1993
- Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S.Ct. 1497 2012
- "Connecticut Court Rules That Lawyers Can't Be Sued for Fraud". Insurancejournal.com
- Reuters (19 June 2019). "Explainer: Can Trump Block Ex-Aide Hicks From Talking to Congress by Citing Immunity?" – via NYTimes.com.
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