Presidential Immunity: Cases in the Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court has had to rule on issues regarding Presidential immunity in a few cases. Three specifically have helped to set the precedent for how the court would interpret another case brought before the court. In Mississippi v. Johnson the ruling decided whether a president can have an injunction placed on him/her based on the carrying out of their executive duties. Next, in the case of Nixon v. Fitzgerald the court ruled on whether a president can be personally sued for decisions they made while in office that violated established law. Lastly, in the case of Jones v. Clinton it was decided if a president could be granted immunity from a civil suit not in relation to his/her office, simply because of the importance of the presidency and the time necessary to dedicate to the job. These three cases involving Presidential immunity have shaped the way a court would interpret a case involving such if faced today.

In response to the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 the state of Mississippi brought suit against the President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, claiming that the laws were un-constitutional. The opinion of the court was given by the Chief Justice, and ruled that an injunction against the president could not be made for duties performed by the president within his duties delineated in Article II of the Constitution. In the ruling the court explained the president’s role in this specific case was not ministerial as the state of Mississippi had argued but was rather an act based on his executive and political duties. Quoting Chief Justice Marshall the court explained that an attempt by the judicial branch to oversee such duties would be “an absurd and excessive extravagance.” The opinion further explains that even though the court in this case is not being asked to tell the executive what it must do but rather telling it what it cannot do, the court must not stray from the underlying principle. Thus, the ruling in this case is that the...
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