Federal officials will not be liable for mere mistakes in judgment, whether the mistake is one of fact or one of law.[i] However, there is no substantial basis for holding that executive officers generally may with impunity discharge their duties in a way that is known to them to violate the United States Constitution or in a manner that they should know transgresses a clearly established constitutional rule. Unless a complaint states a compensable claim for relief under the federal constitution, it should not survive a motion to dismiss.
Federal officials are not accorded a higher degree of immunity from liability when sued for a constitutional violation than state officials are accorded when sued for an identical violation under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983, in the absence of a congressional direction to the contrary. Therefore, when federal officials seek absolute exemption from personal liability for unconstitutional conduct, the burden of showing that public policy requires an exemption of such scope is on the officials.[ii]
[i] Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 98 S. Ct. 2894, 57 L. Ed. 2d 895 (1978)
[ii] Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 106 S. Ct. 496, 88 L. Ed. 2d 507 (1985).