U.S. Supreme Court
Dombrowski v. Eastland, 387 U.S. 82 (1967)
Dombrowski v. Eastland
Argued February 20, 1967
Decided May 15, 1967
387 U.S. 82
Petitioners claim that respondents, Chairman of the Internal Security Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee's chief counsel, tortiously entered into and participated in a conspiracy with Louisiana officials to seize petitioners' property and records in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Louisiana courts held the arrests and searches illegal. Here, the court below, while recognizing difficulty in concluding that there were no disputed issues of fact respecting petitioners' claim, upheld summary dismissal of the action on the ground of respondents' legislative immunity.
Held: Since there is no evidence of the respondent Chairman's "involvement in any activity that could result in liability," the complaint as to him was properly dismissed. The doctrine of legislative immunity protects
"legislators engaged 'in the sphere of legitimate legislative activity,' . . . not only from the consequences of litigation's results, but also from the burden of defending themselves."
However, the doctrine of legislative immunity is less absolute when applied to officers or employees of legislative bodies. There is a sufficient factual dispute with respect to the alleged participation in the conspiracy of the subcommittee's chief counsel to require that a trial be had. The legal consequences of such participation, if it occurred, cannot be determined prior to the factual refinement of trial. The judgment below is therefore reversed as to the subcommittee's chief counsel. 123 U.S.App.D.C.190, 358 F.2d 821, affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part.