Brief Fact Summary. A cost-management expert for the Air Force was fired after he testified in front of Congress about cost overruns in certain military projects. The Defendant, the President of the United States Richard Nixon (Defendant), claimed that he made the firing decision.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The President of the United States (President) is shielded by absolute immunity from civil damages for acts done in his official capacity as President.
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.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Does the President have absolute immunity from suit for actions taken in his official capacity?
Held. Yes, the President is immune from suit from his official acts as a matter of public policy rooted in the structure of government mandated by the separation of power principle. This immunity stems from the President’s unique position in the constitution scheme and the immense importance of his duties. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) is worried about diverting the President’s energies to the concerns related to private lawsuits.
Dissent. Justice Byron White (J. White) felt that this decision places the President above the law.
Discussion. The President must be empowered with the maximum ability to deal fearlessly and impartially with the duties of his office. If not, his visibility would subject him to numerous suits for civil damages. To keep the public safe, there is the constitutional remedy of impeachment, vigilant oversight by Congress and the press.