Keep Washington Safe

The dark age of governmental immunity

In Governmental Immunity on January 6, 2011 at 3:07 am

By Karen Koehler

“The King can do no wrong!”

The King was perfect and holy.  He lived in a world above common people.  The law could not touch him.  The King bowed to no one.  And he couldn’t be sued. Even if he did terrible things.

He is “sovereign and independent” within his own dominions and “owes no kind of subjection to any other potentate on earth. Hence it is that no suit or action can be brought against the King, even in civil matters, because no court can have jurisdiction over him, for all jurisdiction implies superiority of power.” … The law supposes it impossible that the King himself can act unlawfully or improperly. It cannot distrust him whom it has invested with the supreme power; and visits on his advisors and ministers the punishment due to the illegal measures of government. Hence the legal apothegm that the King can do no wrong.”  How it came to be applied in the United States of America, where the prerogative is unknown, is one of the mysteries of legal evolution.   Text taken from 34 Yale Law Journal 1 (1924).

This old royal concept snuck its way into American law.  Because no one questioned it.  But as the years passed, people decided it wasn’t fair or right.  In a democratic society, nothing and no one should be above the law.


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