Officials of each of the government's three branches enjoy varying levels of immunity for their official actions. The Supreme Court and lower federal courts continue to struggle with the proper scope of these immunities. The 'functional" approach to immunities, currently in vogue, was born of the merger between an approach based on the legality of the challenged action and an approach based on deference to the official's discretion. This Article traces the development of those models and their relation to the current good faith immunity standard applicable to most executive officially.

Professor Woolhandler also explores how the judicial system has accommodated suits by citizens to address official wrongdoing and how that accommodation has affected pleadings, the relationship between the Constitution and the common law as a source of officer liability, and the Court's approach to implied rights of action under the Constitution. The discussion of implied rights of action in the nineteenth century calls into question the common assumption that implied constitutional damages actions were an innovation of comparatively recent times.

Lastly, the author challenges the efficacy of good faith immunity in addressing and redressing executive official's misbehavior. The proper function of their liability, she concludes, is not punishment but enforcement of constitutional and statutory limits on government

Ann Woolhandler, Patterns of Official Immunity and Accountability, 37 Case Western Reserve Law Review, 396–483 (1987).