MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.
We granted certiorari
In these cases the personal representatives of the estates of three students who died in that episode seek damages against the Governor, the Adjutant General, and his assistant, various named and unnamed officers and enlisted members of the Ohio National Guard, and the president of Kent State University. The complaints in both cases allege a cause of action under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13, now 42 U. S. C. § 1983. Petitioner Scheuer also alleges a cause of action under Ohio law on the theory of pendent jurisdiction. Petitioners Krause and Miller make a similar claim, asserting jurisdiction on the basis of diversity of citizenship.
The District Court dismissed the complaints for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter on the theory that these actions, although in form against the named individuals, were, in substance and effect, against the State of Ohio and thus barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The Court of Appeals affirmed the action of the District Court, agreeing that the suit was in legal effect one against the State of Ohio and, alternatively, that the common-law doctrine of executive immunity barred action
The complaints in these cases are not identical but their thrust is essentially the same. In essence, the defendants are alleged to have "intentionally, recklessly, willfully and wantonly" caused an unnecessary deployment of the Ohio National Guard on the Kent State campus and, in the same manner, ordered the Guard members to perform allegedly illegal actions which resulted in the death of plaintiffs' decedents. Both complaints allege that the action was taken "under color of state law" and that it deprived the decedents of their lives and rights without due process of law. Fairly read, the complaints allege that each of the named defendants, in undertaking such actions, acted either outside the scope of his respective office or, if within the scope, acted in an arbitrary manner, grossly abusing the lawful powers of office.
The complaints were dismissed by the District Court for lack of jurisdiction without the filing of an answer to any of the complaints. The only pertinent documentation
When a federal court reviews the sufficiency of a complaint, before the reception of any evidence either by affidavit or admissions, its task is necessarily a limited one. The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims. Indeed it may appear on the face of the pleadings that a recovery is very remote and unlikely but that is not the test. Moreover, it is well established that, in passing on a motion to dismiss, whether on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter or for failure to state a cause of action, the allegations of the complaint should be construed favorably to the pleader.
The Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides: "The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State . . . ." It is well established that the Amendment bars suits not only against the State when it is the named party but also when it is the party in fact. Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974); Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U.S. 270, 287 (1885); Cunningham v. Macon & Brunswick R. Co., 109 U.S. 446 (1883). Its applicability "is to be determined not by the mere names of the titular parties but by the essential nature and effect of the proceeding, as it appears from the entire record." Ex parte New York, 256 U.S. 490, 500 (1921).
However, since Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), it has been settled that the Eleventh Amendment provides no shield for a state official confronted by a claim that he had deprived another of a federal right under the color of state law. Ex parte Young teaches that when a state officer acts under a state law in a manner violative of the Federal Constitution, he
Ex parte Young, like Sterling v. Constantin, 287 U.S. 378 (1932), involved a question of the federal courts'
Analyzing the complaints in light of these precedents, we see that petitioners allege facts that demonstrate they are seeking to impose individual and personal liability on the named defendants for what they claim—but have not yet established by proof—was a deprivation of federal rights by these defendants under color of state law. Whatever the plaintiffs may or may not be able to establish as to the merits of their allegations, their claims, as stated in the complaints, given the favorable reading required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Consequently, the District Court erred in dismissing the complaints for lack of jurisdiction.
The Court of Appeals relied upon the existence of an absolute "executive immunity" as an alternative ground for sustaining the dismissal of the complaints by the District Court. If the immunity of a member of the executive
In this country, the development of the law of immunity for public officials has been the product of constitutional provision as well as legislative and judicial processes. The Federal Constitution grants absolute immunity to Members of both Houses of the Congress with respect to any speech, debate, vote, report, or action done in session. Art. I, § 6. See Gravel v. United States, 408 U.S. 606 (1972); United States v. Brewster, 408 U.S. 501 (1972); and Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168 (1881). This provision was intended to secure for the Legislative Branch of the Government the freedom from executive and judicial encroachment which
Immunity for the other two branches—long a creature of the common law—remained committed to the common law. See, e. g., Spalding v. Vilas, 161 U.S. 483, 498-499 (1896).
Although the development of the general concept of immunity, and the mutations which the underlying rationale has undergone in its application to various positions are not matters of immediate concern here, it is important to note, even at the outset, that one policy consideration seems to pervade the analysis: the public interest requires decisions and action to enforce laws for the protection of the public. Mr. Justice Jackson expressed this general proposition succinctly, stating "it is not a tort for government to govern." Dalehite v. United States, 346 U.S. 15, 57 (1953) (dissenting opinion). Public officials, whether governors, mayors or police, legislators or judges, who fail to make decisions when
For present purposes we need determine only whether there is an absolute immunity, as the Court of Appeals determined, governing the specific allegations of the complaint against the chief executive officer of a State, the senior and subordinate officers and enlisted personnel of that State's National Guard, and the president of a state-controlled university. If the immunity is qualified,
Since the statute relied on thus included within its scope the " `[m]isuse of power, possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law,' " id., at 184 (quoting United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 326 (1941)), government officials, as a class, could not be totally exempt, by virtue of some absolute immunity, from liability under its terms. Indeed, as the Court also indicated in Monroe v. Pape, supra, the legislative history indicates that there is no absolute immunity. Soon after Monroe v. Pape, Mr. Chief Justice Warren noted in Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967), that the "legislative record [of § 1983] gives no clear indication that Congress meant to abolish wholesale all common-law immunities," id., at 554. The Court had
In similar fashion, Pierson v. Ray, supra, examined the scope of judicial immunity under this statute. Noting that the record contained no "proof or specific allegation," 386 U. S., at 553, that the trial judge had "played any role in these arrests and convictions other than to adjudge petitioners guilty when their cases came before his court," ibid., the Court concluded that, had the Congress intended to abolish the common-law "immunity of judges for acts within the judicial role," id., at 554, it would have done so specifically. A judge's
The Pierson Court was also confronted with whether immunity was available to that segment of the executive branch of a state government that is most frequently and intimately involved in day-to-day contacts with the citizenry and, hence, most frequently exposed to situations which can give rise to claims under § 1983—the local
The Court noted that the "common law has never granted police officers an absolute and unqualified immunity," id., at 555, but that "the prevailing view in this country [is that] a peace officer who arrests someone with probable cause is not liable for false arrest simply because the innocence of the suspect is later proved," ibid.; the Court went on to observe that a "policeman's lot is not so unhappy that he must choose between being charged with dereliction of duty if he does not arrest when he has probable cause, and being mulcted in damages if he does." Ibid. The Court then held that
When a court evaluates police conduct relating to an arrest its guideline is "good faith and probable cause."
These considerations suggest that, in varying scope, a qualified immunity is available to officers of the executive branch of government, the variation being dependent upon the scope of discretion and responsibilities of the office and all the circumstances as they reasonably appeared at the time of the action on which liability is sought to be based. It is the existence of reasonable grounds for the belief formed at the time and in light
Under the criteria developed by precedents of this Court, § 1983 would be drained of meaning were we to hold that the acts of a governor or other high executive officer have "the quality of a supreme and unchangeable edict, overriding all conflicting rights of property and unreviewable through the judicial power of the Federal Government." Sterling v. Constantin, 287 U. S., at 397. In Sterling, Mr. Chief Justice Hughes put it in these terms:
Gilligan v. Morgan, by no means indicates a contrary result. Indeed, there we specifically noted that we neither held nor implied "that the conduct of the National Guard is always beyond judicial review or that there may not be accountability in a judicial forum for violations of law or for specific unlawful conduct by military personnel, whether by way of damages or injunctive relief." 413 U. S., at 11-12. (Footnote omitted.) See generally Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1, 15-16 (1972); Duncan v. Kahanamoku, 327 U.S. 304 (1946).
These cases, in their present posture, present no occasion for a definitive exploration of the scope of immunity available to state executive officials nor, because of the absence of a factual record, do they permit a determination as to the applicability of the foregoing principles to the respondents here. The District Court acted before answers were filed and without any evidence other than the copies of the proclamations issued by respondent Rhodes and brief affidavits of the Adjutant General and his assistant. In dismissing the complaints, the District Court and the Court of Appeals erroneously accepted as a fact the good faith of the Governor, and took judicial notice that "mob rule existed at Kent State University." There was no opportunity afforded petitioners to contest
The documents properly before the District Court at this early pleading stage specifically placed in issue whether the Governor and his subordinate officers were acting within the scope of their duties under the Constitution and laws of Ohio; whether they acted within the range of discretion permitted the holders of such office under Ohio law and whether they acted in good faith both in proclaiming an emergency and as to the actions taken to cope with the emergency so declared. Similarly, the complaints place directly in issue whether the lesser officers and enlisted personnel of the Guard acted in good-faith obedience to the orders of their superiors. Further proceedings, either by way of summary judgment or by trial on the merits, are required. The complaining parties are entitled to be heard more fully than is possible on a motion to dismiss a complaint.
We intimate no evaluation whatever as to the merits of the petitioners' claims or as to whether it will be possible to support them by proof. We hold only that, on the allegations of their respective complaints, they were entitled to have them judicially resolved.
The judgments of the Court of Appeals are reversed and the cases are remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS took no part in the decision of these cases.
In regard to judicial immunity, Holdsworth notes: "In the case of courts of record . . . it was held, certainly as early as Edward III's reign, that a litigant could not go behind the record, in order to make a judge civilly or criminally liable for an abuse of his jurisdiction." 6 W. Holdsworth. A History of English Law 235 (1927). The modern concept owes much to the elaboration and restatement of Coke and other judges of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Id., at 234 et seq. See Floyd v. Barker, 12 Co. Rep. 23, 77 Eng. Rep. 1305 (K. B. 1607). The immunity of the Crown has traditionally been of a more limited nature. Officers of the Crown were at first insulated from responsibility since the King could claim the act as his own. This absolute insulation was gradually eroded. Statute of Westminster I, 3 Edw. 1, c. 24 (1275) (repealed); Statute of Westminster II, 13 Edw. 1, c. 13 (1285) (repealed). The development of liability, especially during the times of the Tudors and Stuarts, was slow; see, e. g., Public Officers Protection Act, 7 Jac. 1, c. 5 (1609) (repealed). With the accession of William and Mary, the liability of officers saw what Jaffe has termed "a most remarkable and significant extension" in Ashby v. White, 1 Bro. P. C. 62, 1 Eng. Rep. 417 (H. L. 1704), reversing 6 Mod. 45, 87 Eng. Rep. 808 (Q. B. 1703). Jaffe, Suits Against Governments and Officers: Sovereign Immunity, 77 Harv. L. Rev. 1, 14 (1963); A. Dicey, The Law of the Constitution 193-194 (10th ed. 1959) (footnotes omitted). See generally Barr v. Matteo, 360 U.S. 564 (1959). Good-faith performance of a discretionary duty has remained, it seems, a defense. See Jaffe, Suits Against Governments and Officers: Damage Actions, 77 Harv. L. Rev. 209, 216 (1963). See also Spalding v. Vilas, 161 U.S. 483, 493 et seq. (1896).
"In exercising the functions of his office, the head of an Executive Department, keeping within the limits of his authority, should not be under an apprehension that the motives that control his official conduct may, at any time, become the subject of inquiry in a civil suit for damages. It would seriously cripple the proper and effective administration of public affairs as entrusted to the executive branch of the government, if he were subjected to any such restraint."
"We are of opinion that the same general considerations of public policy and convenience which demand for judges of courts of superior jurisdiction immunity from civil suits for damages arising from acts done by them in the course of the performance of their judicial functions, apply to a large extent to official communications made by heads of Executive Departments when engaged in the discharge of duties imposed upon them by law. The interests of the people require that due protection be accorded to them in respect of their official acts."